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Rock-star string quintet is last HBPA event of school year

September 11th, 2017

HESSTON, KAN. – Rounding out this year’s Hesston-Bethel Arts Performing (HBPA) season is one of classical music’s most dynamic chamber groups, the string quintet Sybarite5, at 7:30 p.m., Thursday, April 20, at Hesston Mennonite Church on the Hesston College campus.

Members of Sybarite5 will present a pre-concert talk from 6:15-6:45 p.m. in the church sanctuary. Community members can enjoy a come-and-go pre-concert pie dessert in the church Community Center from 6:15-7:15 p.m..

The concert is made possible through a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts.

A Sarasota (Florida) Herald Tribune review said the group’s “rock star status is well deserved. Their classically honed technique mixed with grit and all out passionate attack transfixes the audience.” With a repertoire ranging from Mozart to Radiohead, Sybarite5 is the first string quintet to win the Concert Artists Guild International Competition.

Comprised of Sami Merdinian and Sarah Whitney, violins; Angela Pickett, viola; Laura Metcalf, cello; and Louis Levitt, bass, Sybarite5 has changed the perception of chamber music performance. Based in New York City, the group got its start at the Aspen Music Festival, and was the first string quintet admitted to the Aspen Advanced String Quartet Studies program. It later became the official AMF alumni ensemble for four seasons.

In 2015, Sybarite5 gave the shared world premiere of BEATBOX by acclaimed American composer Dan Visconti, the first concerto written for string quintet and orchestra. The commissioning orchestras included Duluth-Superior (Minnesota) Symphony Orchestra, the South Carolina Philharmonic and the Midland (Michigan) Symphony.

The group has toured to 41 states and across the globe to perform on some of the world’s best-known stages.

Along with their deep commitment to performance, Sybarite5 is also devoted to education and outreach. They have presented masterclasses and workshops to more than 25,000 students.

They have worked closely with the composition departments of colleges and universities such as Penn State University, Samford University and Luther College, giving students first-hand experience writing for a string quintet in a popular program called “So You Think You Can Compose.”

Thanks to generous grants from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Hesston Community Foundation, Sybarite5 will engage the community in a three-day residency from Tuesday, April 18, through Thursday, April 20.

Activities will include a strings masterclass, free and open to the public, in the Administration Building chapel from 3-4 p.m. Tuesday, April 18. Sybarite5 will also perform educational outreach concerts at Hesston Elementary School, Newton High School, Slate Creek Elementary School in Newton and Hesston’s Schowalter Villa retirement community, with pop-up concerts on the Bethel and Hesston College campuses.

Reserved seating and general admission tickets for Sybarite5 are available at or by calling 620-327-8158. Single tickets are for sale at Bethel College’s Thresher Shop in Schultz Student Center and in the Hesston College Bookstore during regular business hours. Ticket prices range from $17 to $20 with discounts available for students and senior citizens. Individual tickets for the pre-concert pie dessert are $5.

Hesston-Bethel Performing Arts is funded in part by the Hesston Convention and Visitors Bureau, the City of North Newton, Excel Industries/Hustler Turf Equipment (Hesston), the Hesston Community Foundation, the North Newton Community Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts and area business.

About Bethel

As the first Mennonite college founded in North America, Bethel College celebrates a tradition of progressive Christian liberal arts education, diversity within community, and lifelong learning.