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.

“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


Bishop L. Todd Budge, second counselor in the Presiding Bishopric of The Church of Jesus Christ of ...
Mark Jones

Church leader speaks of caring for the earth at Why It Matters conference

Bishop L. Todd Budge, of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, speaks on caring for the earth Wednesday at the Why it Matters conference in Orem.
2 days ago
Teachers are shown at the Tooele School District...
Ashmita Shanthakumar

Tooele School District launches program to help students experiencing homelessness

The Tooele School District offers resources to students and their families who experience homelessness and take donations to help those in need.
2 days ago
Police in Tooele are looking for an armed robbery suspect that forced three schools into lockdown o...
Mark Jones

Three schools in Tooele went into lockdown Tuesday afternoon

An armed robbery suspect caused three schools in Tooele to go into lockdown on Tuesday afternoon. The lockdown was lifted at the end of the school day. The suspect is still being sought.
3 days ago
Dr. Martin W. Bates was unanimously voted by the Salt Lake City Board of Education to serve as the ...
Mark Jones

Salt Lake City School District names interim superintendent

After the departure of Dr. Timothy Gadson as superintendent, Bates agreed to come out of retirement to serve on in interim basis.
3 days ago
An Orem school, Orem High School is pictured. alpine school district split debate...
Becky Bruce and Jessica Lowell

Orem, Alpine School District split debate centers on whose math you believe

The Utah Taxpayers Association supports the break-up of the Alpine district, in part because it finds problems with the data used by the Stronger Together Coalition, which opposes the split. 
3 days ago
The Book of Mormon Art Catalog offers users a variety of ways to conduct specific searches and to b...
Devin Oldroyd

Book of Mormon digital visual art catalog launches Monday

A digital catalog of visual art inspired by the Book of Mormon became available on Oct. 3. It features more than 2,000 pieces.
4 days ago

Sponsored Articles

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.
large group of friends tohether in a park having fun...
BYU MBA at the Marriott School of Business

What differentiates BYU’s MBA program from other MBA programs

Commitment to service is at the heart of BYU’s MBA program, which makes it stand out among other MBA programs across the country.
a worker with a drill in an orange helmet installs a door in the house...
Price's Guaranteed Doors

Home improvement tip: Increase the value of your home by weatherproofing doors

Make sure your home is comfortable before the winter! Seasonal maintenance keeps your home up to date. Read our tips on weatherproofing doors.
Curb Appeal...
Price's Guaranteed Doors

How to have the best of both worlds for your house | Home security and curb appeal

Protect your home and improve its curb appeal with the latest security solutions like beautiful garage doors and increased security systems.
A paper reading IRS, internal revenue service is pictured...
Jordan Wilcox

The best strategies for dealing with IRS tax harassment | You have options!

Learn how to deal with IRS tax harassment. This guide will teach you how to stop IRS phone calls and letters, and how to handle an IRS audit.
spend a day at Bear Lake...
Bear Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau

You’ll love spending the day at Bear Lake | How to spend a day at Bear Lake

Bear Lake is a place that needs to be experienced. Spend a day at Bear Lake.
Quartet made of Utah high schoolers is winning national awards