Quartet made of Utah high schoolers is winning national awards

May 29, 2019, 2:49 PM

SALT LAKE CITY — A group of high schoolers has formed a quartet in Utah is winning national awards for their classical music.

It’s a level of talent that is turning a lot of heads.

Four teenagers make up the Bear Quartet. It stands for their first names: Benson, Ellen, Abby and Rachel. On the cello is Benson Marshall, a junior from Lehi. Ellen Hayashi, a sophomore from Murray, and Rachel Call, a junior from Provo, play the violin. Abby Smith, a junior in Herriman, changed to viola only recently, but now has become so adept at it, she has won a rare scholarship to the Colburn Conservatory of Music in Los Angeles. Rachel Call won another one of the prestigious spots.

They each have been playing for several years on their own and in other groups but met each other at the Gifted Music School in Salt Lake City and once they started playing together, they started racking up competition wins and national awards.

Photo credit: Photo credit: Photo credit:

“They are like heroes. If a high school football team got a national championship, it would be front page news,” said GMS artistic director Eugene Watanabe.

They practice anywhere from 3 to 7 hours a day, individually and as a group, with more practice time before auditions and competitions.

“Some days you don’t reach your goal, but other days you think, I’m going to do as much time as I have,” said Benson.

Abby says judging is so subjective, it always seems a surprise to them when they win.

“It depends on the judges’ moods, their preference, the other players. Winning competitions is great, but it’s also not defining for us,” she said. “It could go either way, anywhere you go.”

Ellen says they somehow started a tradition of watching horror movies after competitions.

“It’s the equivalent of watching what has just happened for 2 to 3 hours on the stage,” she joked.

Rachel said that her coach told her to work on visualization during certain songs she plays…and one of them, String Quartet #2, The First Movement by Alberto Ginastera, reminds her of the soundtrack to a horror movie.

Once Rachel and Abby go to college, the Bear Quartet will break up. Ellen and Benson will play with new groups as they plan their future.

“For the music world, you have to plan so far ahead. You need that life of working to get there,” said Ellen.

Watanabe wants to make one point clear.

“These kids are amazing. They are role models,” he said. “It’s not just about creating great musicians, the true goal is to have good kids. These are good kids.”

Today’s Top Stories


At Bingham High School, three seniors made a Cathedral Gingerbread House for extra credit which is ...
Waverly Golden

Bingham High students build intricate gingerbread cathedral

At Bingham High School, three seniors made a Cathedral Gingerbread House for extra credit which is now on display at the high school.
17 hours ago
Native tribes...
Elizabeth Weiler

Native tribes of Utah are given their chance to offer historical perspectives on museum artifacts

SALT LAKE CITY — Natural History Museum of Utah (NHMU) Anthropologists are using a grant to insure a lifelong understanding of Native tribes and Indigenous culture, long after their generations have passed.  Utah is home to several Native tribes who are now having a chance to preserve their culture.  National Endowment of the Humanities (NEH) […]
3 days ago
Officials at Weber State University are considering a change to the student health services current...
Alexandrea Bonilla

Weber State University considers outsourcing student health care

Right now, the health center at Weber State provides low-cost care to students and does not require any form of insurance.
9 days ago
The Biden administration is again extending the pause on federal student loan payments....
Arlette Saenz and Katie Lobosco, CNN

Biden extends student loan repayment freeze as program remains in court

The latest extension comes as the Biden administration's student loan forgiveness program remains tied up in the courts.
9 days ago
After six years leading USU, and an overall 32 year career with the school, President Noelle E. Coc...
Simone Seikaly

USU President Noelle E. Cockett will step down

USU President Noelle E. Cockett has been part of the college's community for 32 years.
9 days ago
Mark Jackson

BYU wellness students return from Blue zone with healthy lifestyle tips

Some BYU students are learning how to live healthy and happier lives from a trip to Ikaria, Greece.
9 days ago

Sponsored Articles

Happy joyful smiling casual satisfied woman learning and communicates in sign language online using...

The best tools for Deaf and hard-of-hearing workplace success

Here are some of the best resources to make your workplace work better for Deaf and hard-of-hearing employees.
Team supporters celebrating at a tailgate party...

8 Delicious Tailgate Foods That Require Zero Prep Work

In a hurry? These 8 tailgate foods take zero prep work, so you can fuel up and get back to what matters most: getting hyped for your favorite
christmas decorations candles in glass jars with fir on a old wooden table...
Western Nut Company

12 Mason Jar Gift Ideas for the 12 Days of Christmas [with recipes!]

There are so many clever mason jar gift ideas to give something thoughtful to your neighbors or friends. Read our 12 ideas to make your own!
wide shot of Bear Lake with a person on a stand up paddle board...

Pack your bags! Extended stays at Bear Lake await you

Work from here! Read our tips to prepare for your extended stay, whether at Bear Lake or somewhere else nearby.
young boy with hearing aid...

Accommodations for students who are deaf and hard of hearing

These different types of accommodations for students who are deaf and hard of hearing can help them succeed in school.
Young woman receiving laser treatment...
Form Derm Spa

How facial plastic surgery and skincare are joining forces

Facial plastic surgery is not only about looking good but about feeling good too. The medical team at Form Spa are trained to help you reach your aesthetic outcomes through surgery and through skincare and dermatology, too.
Quartet made of Utah high schoolers is winning national awards