The Sierra Quartet first met while reading chamber music at a house owned by an influential supporter of the arts and board member of the San Francisco Opera. The repertoire culminated in Schubert’s final G Major String Quartet, an epic piece full of emotional twists and turns, battling between major and minor. The reading, having brought to light a shared vision between the four colleagues, led Elbert to ask the fated question, “Do you guys like to rehearse?”
Months later, the group organized a retreat in Three Rivers, California, a small town on the outskirts of Sequoia National Park, where Elbert had taught for several summers in the early days of Center Stage Strings (now run by the University of Michigan School of Music, Theatre, and Dance). Each day was filled with many hours of rehearsals and practice while surrounded by the majesty of the High Sierras.
The following summer, the quartet would travel internationally for the first time to perform at Festival Rolland, founded by James in 2018. Rochelle, Christy, and James flew to Paris first, working up string duos, trios, and a piano quartet during one of France’s hottest heat waves. Elbert joined later, flying in from Michigan for exactly 48 hours to perform two concerts in two cities. That trip through Burgundy included multiple 4-hour long train rides and a crowded car trip between cities, featuring 5 people, 4 instruments, luggage, and some sharp elbows.
Upon returning to California, the Sierra Quartet was officially founded and named after their consequential time spent together in Three Rivers.