DOVETAIL SERIES Photo Gallery - Inaugural Concert with Maggie Brown

We are still abuzz from the launch of our new DOVETAIL SERIES with vocalist Maggie Brown and composer/keyboardist Calvin Brunson! Our goal was to create a musical exchange–one in which we are learning as much as we are presenting–and we couldn't have asked for a more enthusiastic crowd, or beautiful space.

Fortunately, we have talented friends, and photographer Marc Perlish was on hand to capture the evening. Marc is one of those artists that is just as skillful in a live setting as one in which he has control over the elements, and in this case, he transformed a particularly dusky lighting situation into these bright, energetic photos you see below. 

We have three DOVETAIL shows coming up this season, so keep an eye out for details. This project has us all fired up, and we can't wait to tell you who we're collaborating with this year!

2017 Chamber Music Intensive – Photo Gallery

This July, we presented our third-annual Chamber Music Intensive in partnership with the University of Chicago's Department of Music and the Logan Center for the Arts–and it feels like we're seriously hitting our stride. The four-day festival is geared toward college-age and amateur string players and pianists, and this year our theme was The Romantics. Amidst all the Brahms and Borodin and Dvořák, we were treated to masterclasses and an on-stage interview with Guarneri Quartet first violinist Arnold Steinhardt, a dynamic presentation on the music-centric literature of the era from Beyond the Score founder Gerard McBurney, a field trip to hear the Grant Park Symphony...and an epic rainstorm for the ages.

We can't wait for next year, and if you have photos you'd like to contribute to the CMI gallery below, shoot them over to See you next summer!

Chamber Music America awards commissioning grant to Spektral and Composer Tonia Ko

Tonia Ko

Tonia Ko

We want to say a big thank you to Chamber Music America for funding a new work by composer Tonia Ko for our 2018/19 season! We've been looking for an opportunity to work with Tonia, whose imaginative music has been on our radar for some time, and the 18/19 season offers the perfect fit.

But we can't tell you about that season just yet...

What we can tell you is that we will have a season-long theme, one that has us all deliriously excited, and that it is our largest-scale project to-date. With CMA's generous support, a key element of this dream is now firmly in place.

We can also tell you that Tonia's piece, titled "Plain, Air," will be a 30-minute work that investigates the relationship between musical sounds and those of the natural environment.

If you are new to Tonia, we should share with you that her music tends to color outside the lines of artistic discipline, with a deep affinity for the visual arts. She studied at the Eastman School of Music, Indiana University, and Cornell University, and has been commissioned by heavy-hitters like Carnegie Hall and the Kennedy Center as well as the Tanglewood, Aspen, and Santa Fe music festivals.

One of our favorite things about Tonia is that she uses bubble wrap as a sound texture in some of her work. Does this sound like a match made in heaven or what?


DOVETAIL SERIES: An Unexpected Audience Response

photo credit: Justin Fennert

photo credit: Justin Fennert

We were still riding high from the audience turnout and enthusiasm at our DOVETAIL SERIES launch this past Saturday when we received a ping via Twitter. Justin Fennert, a creative marketer, community builder, and photographer based in Chicago, happened to be visiting the Stony Island Arts Bank the day of our performance and made the snap decision to stick around for the show. 

Even more unexpectedly, Justin decided to capture and blog about his reactions to our collaboration. We LOVE it when listeners decide to dive a little deeper and write down their thoughts. For us, it's tangible evidence that the singular relationship that we build with an audience at each concert hasn't evaporated once we all head through the doors and out onto the street. 

Here's one of our favorite excerpts:

"What I loved about this event was the fact that you could see vividly the impact fearless collaboration could have on a group of people. Not only did it bring two different styles of music together on one stage, it also brought two communities together in one room. You can learn a lot by looking at how these two groups worked together. Both from drastically different backgrounds who used instruments not often seen together on the same stage to communicate those stories. As expected, both were great independently, but destroyed expectations in coming together creating a piece that was both unified and powerful."

You can read Justin's entire post over at his website, oh, and you are forever and always invited to send us your reflections, poetic or otherwise, to

Inside the 'Dovetail Series': Oscar Brown, Jr.

So. We're launching a new series in partnership with Theaster Gates's Rebuild Foundation, titled The Dovetail Series, and our first collaboration is with vocalist/spoken-word artist Maggie Brown. The thing about Ms. Brown is that in addition to her own creative efforts, she has become a champion for the legacy of her father–the brilliant Chicago songwriter/poet/activist Oscar Brown, Jr. If this is a new name for you, you're not alone. Oscar Brown, Jr. was fiercely protective of his creative freedom and profoundly adverse to the commercialization of music, so despite having penned lyrics for the likes of Miles Davis and Max Roach, drawing Muhammed Ali to star in one of his theatrical productions on Broadway, running for a seat in the Illinois state legislature, and releasing a critically-acclaimed debut album–he passed away in 2005 with far less recognition than he deserved.

We thought we'd take a moment, as we gear up for our show with Maggie this Sunday (which you can attend for FREE if you RSVP here) by immersing you in her father's work, which will feature prominently during the performance. Collaborating with Maggie has been everything we'd hoped the Dovetail Series would be–inspirational, educational, thought-provoking, and fun (she will break into song and dance with little provocation in our meetings)–and we hope our fledgeling effort will help expose the brilliant songwriting and beautiful (and devastating) poetry of Oscar Brown, Jr. to a wider array of listeners. Dig in!

Oscar Brown Jr.'s brilliant debut album, 'Sin & Soul'


One of the first jazz records to engage with the Civil Rights movement: Max Roach's 'We Insist!' (with lyrics by Oscar Brown, Jr.)


A total stunner: Oscar Brown, Jr. on Def Poetry performing his 'I Apologize'


One of the most jaw-dropping stories from Oscar Brown, Jr.'s career: creating the show 'Opportunity Please Knock' for one of Chicago's most feared gangs, the Blackstone Rangers


And to bring it full-circle: a touching exchange between Maggie and Oscar as she honors her father's artistry

Spektral 2016/17 Season Photo Gallery!

We've had an incredible season–Grammys, Feldman, Rome, et al–and we thought we'd pull some photos off our glowing rectangles to share with you. 

For 2017/18, we're launching the ONCE MORE–WITH FEELING! series at Constellation, and we need your support to make it happen. For it, we'll fly in a composer, perform a piece from their catalog at least twice, and in the middle discuss what inspired its creation, and how it works. This series was born out of feedback from our audiences–that if only they could hear a new piece more than once, they'd be able to digest and appreciate it more–and this new series is our answer. We are seeking to raise $3,000 by the end of this week in order to fly Wadada Leo Smith, Eliza Brown, Lisa Coons, and LJ White to town next season. Thank you so much for considering a donation to get this project launched!


Chicago Tribune: Spektral throws a new-music disco party

Chicago Tribune: Spektral throws a new-music disco party

The Spektral Quartet likes to put on performances that are not so much concerts as high-energy thrill rides for musically inquisitive listeners. The operative question behind all of them is: What makes a contemporary classical string quartet contemporary? The answers are many and varied, designed to provoke as often as delight.

So it was over the weekend at Constellation, where the virtuosic Chicago foursome presented a program of new and cutting-edge contemporary pieces, including world premieres by Charlie Sdraulic and Andrew McManus. The club was packed with Spektral groupies who were given instruction in how to dance the hustle following the performance.

Spektral Quartet Raises Over $4,000 for GirlForward

We are pleased to announce that we raised $4,150 for GirlForward, a Chicago-based non-profit organization dedicated to creating and enhancing opportunities for refugee girls.

For our Chicago premiere of Morton Feldman’s Quartet No. 2 on March 11th, we issued a challenge to attendees: for any concertgoer who stayed with us for the entirety of the five-hour epic, a donation would be made in their name to GirlForward.

Generously funded by key supporters, board members, and audience members, the Feldman Forward initiative aimed to take advantage of the enhanced visibility surrounding our performance by adding this charitable dimension. GirlForward was selected as the beneficiary based on strong recommendations from the community, as well as the organization’s relatively small size and potential impact this gift could make.

Read more about this amazing organization on their website:



Chicago Tribune: A quiet, 5-hour marathon scaled by Spektral Quartet at MCA

Chicago Tribune: A quiet, 5-hour marathon scaled by Spektral Quartet at MCA

The Everest of modern string quartets received its Chicago premiere at the Museum of Contemporary Art on Saturday night, and Spektral Quartet gamely scaled it in a mere five hours and eight minutes.

What? That's surely a misprint.

Well, no. Morton Feldman's String Quartet No. 2 (1983) is the longest such piece in the active repertory. Its title page estimates duration to be between five and one-half and six and one-half hours. That is, of continuous music, without a break.

Chicago Classical Review: Spektral Quartet brings refined artistry, impressive stamina to Feldman work

Chicago Classical Review: Spektral Quartet brings refined artistry, impressive stamina to Feldman work

In their first complete performance of Feldman’s quartet, the Spektral members (violinists Clara Lyon and Maeve Feinberg, violist Doyle Armbrust and cellist Russell Rolen) brought tonal refinement, focused ensemble, and a terraced array of dynamics—consistently exploring the extreme degrees of pianissimo where most of the music lives.