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November 4, 2018


Hemispheres: South America

Villa-Lobos, Piazzola, Vega, and Ginastera

Hailed by the New York Times at their Carnegie Hall debut as “invariably energetic and finely burnished…playing with earthy vigor,” Catalyst Quartet is comprised of top Laureates and alumni of the internationally acclaimed Sphinx Competition. Known for “rhythmic energy, polyphonic clarity and tight ensemble-playing,” the ensemble has toured throughout the United States and abroad, including sold-out performances at the Kennedy Center in Washington DC, at Chicago’s Harris Theater, Miami’s New World Center and Stern Auditorium at Carnegie Hall.

Catalyst Quartet has held concert residencies at the University of Michigan, University of Washington, Rice University, Houston’s Society for the Performing Arts, Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music, the Virginia Arts Festival, and Pennsylvania State University. International residencies where they perform and teach master classes have included the In Harmony Project in England, the University of South Africa, and the Teatro de Bellas Arts in Cali, Colombia.

Catalyst Quartet has been invited to guest artist at important music festivals, Mainly Mozart in San Diego, the Great Lakes Chamber Music Festival, Sitka Music Festival, Juneau Jazz and Classics, Strings Music Festival and the Grand Canyon Music Festival. In 2014 they opened the Festival del Sole in Napa with Joshua Bell and also participated in England’s Aldeburgh Music Foundation’s String Quartet Residency with two performances in Jubilee Hall. Recent seasons have brought international touring in Mexico, Argentina, Colombia, and Puerto Rico, and expanded U.S. tours in Virginia, Minnesota, Hawaii and California. Catalyst’s New York City presence has included concerts on the café series at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, at Columbia University’s Miller Theatre, for Schneider Concerts at the The New School, and six concerts at Jazz at Lincoln Center with Grammy Award-winning jazz vocalist Cécile McLorin Salvant, with whom they recently recorded an album, which will be released this fall.

Their other recordings include The Bach / Gould Project - Catalyst Quartet’s debut recording featuring the members’ own arrangement of J.S. Bach’s monumental Goldberg Variations paired with Glenn Gould’s seminal String Quartet, on the Azica label and Strum, featuring string works by CQ violinist, composer Jessie Montgomery. CQ has performed on numerous television and radio broadcasts for Detroit Public Television, American Public Media’s Performance Today, and Chicago, Houston, Seattle and Vermont local stations. The ensemble was also featured in The Strad and Strings Magazine.

Founded by the Sphinx Organization, the Catalyst Quartet combines a serious commitment to diversity and education with a passion for contemporary works. In October 2016 the Quartet completed their sixth national tour as principal players and featured ensemble with the Sphinx Virtuosi. Catalyst Quartet members serve as principal faculty at the Sphinx Performance Academy at The Cleveland Institute of Music and Roosevelt University.

The Catalyst Quartet proudly endorses Pirastro strings: Additional information with links to audio and video performances can be found on their homepage:


Karla Donehew-Perez, violin 

Karla Donehew-Perez, Violin, Born in Puerto Rico, Karla began playing the violin at age three. At age twelve, Karla moved with her family to California where she continued her studies with Anne Crowden, director and founder of The Crowden School. Karla completed her Bachelors and Masters degrees at the Cleveland Institute of Music, studying performance with violin teachers Paul Kantor, David Cerone, and William Preucil. She was a member of the WO-MEN String Quartet at CIM, which received several awards and performed for the Kennedy Center and the Cleveland Chamber Music Society. Karla has collaborated in chamber music with Frederica von Stade, Gary Karr, and members of the Guarneri, Juilliard and Takacs Quartets, among others. She has performed as a soloist with the Berkeley Symphony, Sacramento Philharmonic, San Francisco Chamber Orchestra, Oakland East Bay Symphony, Sphinx Symphony Orchestra, Sphinx Chamber Orchestra and the New World Symphony. She has been guest concertmaster at the Tucson Symphony and spent two years as a fellow at the New World Symphony, often as concertmaster or principal second violin. Karla plays on a violin made in 2013 by world-renowned German luthier Stefan-Peter Greiner, supported in part by a Sphinx MPower Artist grant. Her fine violin bow is by Victor Fetique, from the Rachel Elizabeth Barton Foundation. She is married to violist Paul Laraia.

Jessie Montgomery, violin 

Jessie Montgomery, Violin, is a New York native violinist, composer and music educator who composes and performs in her own film, theater and concert music, and is a regular performer in New York’s classical and new music scenes. An avid chamber musician and collaborator, Jessie was a founding member of PUBLIQuartet, an ensemble of composers and arrangers, which features their own music and other New York composers. She was a core member and resident composer of the Providence String Quartet from 2004-2009, quartet in residence of Community MusicWorks. She performs regularly with Yo-Yo Ma's Silkroad Ensemble, and has appeared with The Knights, East Coast Chamber Orchestra and NOVUS New York. Jessie was first affiliated with The Sphinx Organization in 1999 as a two-time laureate in the annual competition, was Concertmaster of the 2009 national tour, faculty of the Sphinx Performance Academy, and became a member of the Catalyst Quartet in 2012. Jessie's music has been commissioned and performed by the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra, Young People's Chorus of NY, Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra, Chicago Sinfonietta and Sphinx Virtuosi, and her music is performed regularly by the Catalyst Quartet and PUBLIQuartet. Jessie holds a Bachelor’s Degree from The Juilliard School in Violin Performance and a Master’s Degree in Composition and Film Scoring from New York University. Primary violin teachers were Sally Thomas and Ann Setzer; composition teachers and mentors include Ira Newborn, Joan Tower, Derek Bermel, and Laura Kaminsky

Paul Laraia, viola 

Paul Laraia, Viola, is regarded for his extraordinary grasp of phrasing, character and color. He has performed across the United States, Canada and in Korea, and has been featured on Detroit Public Television and National Public Radio. The New Jersey native first studied viola with Byrnina Socolofsky, disciple of viola pedagogue Leonard Mogill. He continued studies on scholarship through Temple University’s Center for Gifted Young Musicians and the Settlement Music School in Philadelphia, and entered the New England Conservatory of Music on full scholarship in 2007 to study with Kim Kashkashian. From 2007-2009 Paul was a member of the Bela String Quartet, silver medalists in the 2007 Fischoff National Chamber Music Competition. Paul performed the Bartok and the Walton Viola Concertos with the Sphinx Symphony Orchestra at Detroit’s Orchestra Hall as a winner of the 2010 and 2011 Sphinx Competitions. Praised for his “long lines” and “caramelly yet airy” tone, Paul has since performed his solo debuts with the Pittsburgh, Atlanta and Nashville Symphony Orchestras and appeared in recital at the 40th International Viola Congress. Paul recently recorded his debut album of Bach, Reger, Hindemith and Henze for the White Pine label. Like all members of the Catalyst Quartet, Paul believes it is crucial to bring classical music to new audiences and actively engages in outreach performance. The Bela Quartet brought music to inner city schools, hospitals and nursing homes, and Paul has offered free master classes to youth music programs.

Karlos Rodriguez, cello

Karlos Rodriguez, Cello, made his solo orchestral debut at the age of thirteen, and has since been an avid soloist, recitalist and chamber musician. The winner of several competitions and prizes, including the State Cello Prize (FL), the Irene Muir Memorial Award, the Richard Lowenberg cello award and a William Randolph Hearst scholarship. Karlos has appeared at important New York musical venues including Carnegie Hall, Merkin Concert Hall, Avery Fisher Hall, Alice Tully Hall, and Radio City Music Hall, and at Philadelphia’s Kimmel Center. He has worked with many distinguished artists including the Beaux Arts Trio, the American, Cavani, Cleveland, Emerson, Guarneri, Juilliard, Miami, Orion, Tokyo and Vermeer String Quartets, and with the cellists Janos Starker, Lynn Harrell and Steven Isserlis. His teachers have included Richard Aaron, Peter Wiley and David Soyer. Karlos’s love of modern dance paired with live music has led to collaborations with the Thomas/Ortiz Dance Company, Freefall, the Mark Morris Dance Group, and dancer Chita Rivera. He attended and was a guest artist at the ENCORE School for Strings, the Sarasota, Aspen, and Kneisel Hall Chamber Music Festivals, and the Cleveland and Philadelphia Orchestra Chamber Music Societies. Karlos has worked on various Broadway musicals and pop albums, most recently with Shakira and Marc Anthony. Of Cuban descent, he teaches on the faculty at Summertrios and the Sphinx Performance Academy, and is the former Principal Cellist of Miami’s Florida Grand Opera Orchestra.

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