The Harvard University Department of Music has announced that the Chiara Quartet has been named Blodgett Artists-in-Residence for 2008-11. The Chiara (“clear, pure, or light” in Italian) will be in residence at Harvard for four one-week periods each academic year beginning in October 2008. Recently awarded with the Guarneri Quartet Residency Award for artistic excellence by Chamber Music America, the Chiara Quartet’s other honors include a top prize at the Paolo Borciani International Competition, winning the Astral Artistic Services National Audition, and winning First Prize at the Fischoff Chamber Music Competition.

During its time on campus at Harvard, the Chiara Quartet (Rebecca Fischer and Julie Yoon, violin; Jonah Sirota, viola; and Gregory Beaver, cello) will perform free public concerts and work directly with Harvard students by providing lessons and instruction, and by reading student compositions. The quartet’s inaugural performance will be Oct. 31, 2008, at 8 p.m. in the John Knowles Paine Concert Hall.

The Blodgett Artist-in-Residence program, made possible through a gift from Mr. and Mrs. John W. Blodgett Jr., has been at Harvard for 22 years. The program provides for distinguished artists and ensembles to spend time at the Department of Music and also invites artists to lecture and perform in a variety of musical disciplines. Recent Blodgett Distinguished Artists and Chamber Music ensembles have included the Mendelssohn String Quartet, the Ying Quartet, Neba Solo, Greg Osby, Jean Claude Risset, and Sir Harrison Birtwistle.

“Harvard looks forward to welcoming the Chiara Quartet in 2008,” said Ingrid Monson, chair of the Department of Music. “We are impressed by the ensemble’s efforts to expand the audience for chamber music by finding new ways to engage listeners, and feel their commitment aligns well with Harvard’s goal of bringing innovative musicians to campus who will connect with the entire Harvard community.”

The Chiara Quartet has been praised for a “marvelously dramatic” approach, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer. In addition to performing in major halls such as Lincoln Center’s Alice Tully Hall, the quartet currently devotes much of its performance season to concerts in alternative venues. In recent months the quartet has performed at clubs including New York’s Caffe Vivaldi, Kansas City’s The Brick, and Chicago’s The Hideout.

“We want to reach some audiences that have not yet been reached — people who are our age and maybe have never heard chamber music before because they haven’t had the opportunity or are put off by the formality of traditional concert halls,” violist Jonah Sirota explained.

The Chiara Quartet’s recent special programs include “Mestizaje: Harmony of Differences,” which they premiered at New York’s Merkin Hall in January 2007. The program features composers whose music is infused with the influence of multiple cultures. Also in 2007, the quartet introduced “Love, Life, and Spirit: The Chiara Quartet and Friends Celebrate the Music of Brahms,” a collaboration among the University of Nebraska, Lincoln, Lincoln Friends of Chamber Music, and the Lied Center for the Performing Arts.

The Chiara Quartet has released world-premiere recordings of new masterworks on the ensemble’s own New Voice Singles label, including Robert Sirota’s “Triptych” and Gabriela Lena Frank’s “Leyendas: An Andean Walkabout.” In addition, the quartet has premiered award-winning works by Gabriela Lena Frank, Jefferson Friedman, and Nico Muhly, among others.

Throughout the Chiara Quartet’s career, the ensemble has intentionally blurred the boundary between performance and outreach. It is the Chiara Quartet’s firm belief that transcendent live performance is the best way to connect people to music. As mentors, the Chiara Quartet has taught at the Juilliard School, Greenwood Music Camp, and the University of Nebraska’s Chamber Music Institute in Lincoln. In 2005, the quartet founded the Red River Chamber Music Festival, a summer study and performance festival in Grand Forks, N.D.

For more information about the Chiara Quartet, visit