The Blue Door String Quartet
Whitney La Grange – Violin
Whitney La Grange is from Mission, TX. She received her Bachelor of Music from The Juilliard School. She also attended Yale University on full scholarship where she studied with Eric Friedman and the Tokyo String Quartet in the Artist Diploma Program. She received her Master of Music Degree from the University of Illinois Champagne/Urbana where she was a teaching assistant to Sherban Lupu. First Violinist of the St. Augustine String Quartet, she recorded the Bartok and Beethoven String Quartets for the Fuller Sound Label, performing throughout the US and Canada. Her latest recording is Panic by Drew Krause on the CD, Powder, by Innova Records. Her most recent solo appearances were Quadrille for Violin and Orchestra by Drew Krause with the Musica Bella Orchestra of New York and the Bach Double Violin Concerto with the Lautreamont Chamber Orchestra. She currently lives in New York.
Benjamin Breen – Violinist and Artistic Director
Australian born violinist Benjamin Breen – recognized for his “exceptional purity of tone” and “beguiling sensitivity” (the Strad) made his New York recital debut at Weill Recital Hall at Carnegie Hall. His “intense emotion” and “tone tinged with gold” (Sydney Morning Herald) have led to engagements in Australia, Europe, the United States and Japan, both as soloist with orchestra, in recital, and as chamber musician. Breen has also premiered works dedicated to him by the eminent Australian composer Peter Sculthorpe. In Australia he has made television appearances on ABC-TV and the 9 Network and participated in radio broadcasts on ABC-FM, ABC Radio National, 2MBS-FM & 3MBS-FM. His growing list of U.S. broadcast credits include performances on WNYC, and National Public Radio stations nationwide. Breen began studies at the age of 5 in Sydney. At 11 he entered the Sydney Conservatorium of Music, where his teachers were John Harding and Janet Davies. After pursuing musical studies in Germany, he returned to Australia, where he participated in master classes with Valery Klimov, Igor Ozim and Raphael Hillyer. Participation in the Melbourne Summer Music Festival with Pinchas Zukerman led Mr. Breen to continue his studies in New York. At The Juilliard School, Breen studied violin with Stephen Clapp and chamber music with Samuel Sanders and Paul Doktor. He subsequently continued violin studies with violinist Harry Shub in New York, whose pedagogy influenced him greatly. As chamber musician he has appeared at the Aspen and Next Generation and Telluride music festivals. Performances with ex-Heifetz pianist Milton Kaye led to the release of Breen’s debut recording of the Brahms Sonatas on the Australian Tall Poppies label available world-wide. Tall Poppies have also released “Cafe Fiddle” to wide critical acclaim. Mr. Breen is the Artistic Director of New York’s Hudson Chamber Society which presents a diverse series of chamber music. His instrument is from 1712 made by Giuseppe Guarneri filius Andrea – the “ex-Boyle” with a bow by Joseph Henry.
Valentina Shohdy – Viola
Valentina Shohdy is violist and founding member of the Excelsa Quartet, first-prize winners of both “The Provincie Limburg Prijs” and the “EMCY Art prize” at the Charles Hennen 26th International Chamber Music Competition for Strings in The Netherlands. The Quartet also won the Prix du Jury “Jeunes Musiciens” et du Public’ at the Illzach 17th International Chamber Music Competition in France; were finalists in Salieri-Zinetti; semi-finalists in the 2010 Credit Suisse Jeunes Solistes Competition and were honored to have been chosen to participate in the the 9th “Premio Paolo Borciani” International String Quartet Competition. Most recently, the Quartet performed at the Kultur-Kongresszentrum Luzern in Switzerland as part of a series with the Lucerne Symphony Orchestra. Ms. Shohdy has participated in various music festivals and master classes including Cassalmaggiore International Music Festival in Italy, the Orford Arts Centre in Quebec, Canada, the New York String Orchestra Seminar and NYU’s Intensive String Quartet Workshop. With the Excelsa Quartet, Ms. Shohdy was invited to the Britten-Pears International Academy of String Quartets in Aldeburgh, England and participated in the String Quartet Training Program with the Alban Berg Quartet at the Hochschule Koeln in Germany. Ms. Shohdy has had extensive orchestral experience, performing at Lincoln Center, Carnegie Hall and Jordan Hall under the batons of such esteemed conductors as Valery Gergiev, Carlos Miguel Prieto, Hugh Wolff, Alexis Hauser and Ronald Braunstein. Ms. Shohdy was also principal violist and outreach workshop coordinator of Discovery Ensemble in Boston. She has given several master classes worldwide and this past summer joined the string faculty at Interlochen Center for the Arts. She has had wide ranging experience playing jazz, world, and film music, collaborating on several albums as well as performing at popular venues all over the world. Ms. Shohdy holds a Bachelor of Music degree with Outstanding Achievement in Viola Performance from McGill University in Montreal where she studied with Andre Roy and a Master of Music degree with Academic Honors from New England Conservatory where she studied with Martha Katz. Most recently with the Quartet, she received a second Masters Degree in Chamber Music from the Hochschule Luzern in Switzerland as a joint student of Isabel Deplazes-Charisius and Sebastian Hamann.
Arthur Cook – Cello
Arthur Cook has appeared as a chamber musician and soloist in summer festivals at Sandpoint, Meadowmount, Taos,Yale at Norfolk, Rutgers and Apple Hill. He has served as artistic director for Lyrica and Artists in the Hall as well as principal cellist and soloist for the Wayne Chamber Orchestra, the New Philharmonic and the New York Symphonic Ensemble on its Japan tour. Mr. Cook won First Prize in the New York Studio Club Awards as well as in competitions at the Metropolitan YMHA (NJ) and the Wayne YMHA (NJ), and he has appeared as soloist with orchestras at Alice Tully Hall and Carnegie Hall. He holds degrees from Texas Tech University and the Mannes College of Music, where he was a recipient of the George Szell Award and the Graduate Performance Award. His teachers included Arthur Follows, David Geber, Felix Galimir, and Louis Krasner. He has been on the music faculties of both Seton Hall University and Smith College and is the co-founder of the Blue Door Music Series in Provincetown. Mr. Cook plays on a 1798 Josef Gagliano cello presented to him by the Gandolph Foundation.