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Be seen. Be heard.
“I am the principal second with the West Virginia Orchestra, but that is a supplement. Three years ago, I would have probably said it was my main job. While Beo is a priority for me is – forget the career we are trying to forge – it’s the people I work with. They are pushing my understanding of music and life. I get to do that with three other people with similar goals. We are in our mid 30s and have played for 25 years or so and we are in a room together and essentially trying to find out what we don’t like about the way someone is playing but with the goal to have a better musical product. It’s almost unheard of because it is so competitive. Touring and performance, that’s not the pursuit, that’s the by-product of what we need to do finally and to share our music, but the special thing is the people I get to do that with.”
Sean Neukom, Viola for Beo String Quartet

University Communications

Alumni Sean and Jason Neukom bring Beo String Quartet to North Dakota

MINOT, N.D. – Minot State University alumni Sean and Jason Neukom can trace their love of music – and teaching music – back to their father, Richard.

The brothers, who form half of Beo String Quartet with Sandro Leal-Santiesteban and Ryan Ash, grew up with music as Richard was and is the only string teacher in their hometown of Devils Lake, N.D. And, while music was important, the aspect of teaching it still resonates with the duo.

“Jason and I were fortunate to grow up seeing what music can do for a child or a student,” Sean said. “He wasn’t just teaching them so they could go into music or have a career in music, but to show them something that will affect them the rest of their lives. We go home now and visit and we hear people say he had such an impact on their lives because he was an amazing teacher. It is a part of what we want to do in, maybe, a different way, not as a public school teacher, but as a string quartet.”

The brothers are embarking on a tour with Beo through North Dakota, starting with a house concert at the home of Erik Anderson, MSU music professor Tuesday, Jan. 16. The tour continues with stops in Jamestown, Devils Lake, Grand Forks, and Fargo, as both an educational tour with classes and performances, and as a tune-up for a major competition in Austria in February.

"The four of us have played in hundreds of children’s shows over the years (usually in orchestras) and we have seen how influential and important and fun they can be to young people,” Jason said. “I think that it became important to us, while forming our own children’s shows, is to make sure to engage the audience as much as possible. That way it becomes less of a performance and more of an interactive experience.”

Jason and Sean took their talents from Devils Lake to Minot State to earn an education in music mainly due to professor Jon Rumney.  Rumney teaches violin, viola, chamber music, music history, strings methods and is co-director of the MSU String Ensemble. Both Neukoms were impressed with his style and approach to teaching.

“The reason I attended Minot State University was so that I could study with faculty member Dr. Jon Rumney, who is an excellent violin teacher,” Jason said. “Unlike many other majors, music majors tend to pick a specific teacher that they wish to work with and then try to attend the school where that faculty member teaches at simply because so much of our time is spent as one-on-one with our primary instructor. He helped provide me with many of the basic building blocks that I would need in order to continue advancing in my field, especially in a field where the top performers mostly began training at very young ages.”

“MSU was a collection of experiences for me and were perfect for what I wanted to do and needed to do to further my career. I got to explore composition, write a piece for the choir, and then got to hear it being played,” Sean said. “I was surrounded by faculty that pushed me. I came here to study under Jon Rumney. I heard him play and saw him teach and knew I wanted to take lessons from him. Without a doubt, the things that I’ve been able to do in music have come from Jon.”

After both graduated from prestigious graduate programs – Sean at the Cleveland Institute of Music and Jason at the Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music – the current format of Beo started to take shape. Jason’s former quartet disbanded, but he was determined to form another. He and Leal-Santiesteban, who he met while earning an artist diploma at Carnegie Mellon University School of Music, joined with Sean as the first three members.  Ash was auditioned to round out the group.

“Jason knew he wanted to continue with a quartet and had Sondro, who plays violin, in mind,” Sean said. “I jokingly mentioned that I should learn viola so we could work together because that was something Jason and I have always wanted to do. I tried it and liked it. We auditioned for Ryan, we knew him a little bit, but he came in as the odd man out so to speak. We loved his playing and loved working with him.”

For Sean, who lists “viola for Beo” as his full-time job, working with his three counterparts is what makes his experience in the quartet unique.

“I am the principal second with the West Virginia Orchestra, but that is a supplement. Three years ago, I would have probably said it was my main job. While Beo is a priority for me is – forget the career we are trying to forge – it’s the people I work with. They are pushing my understanding of music and life. I get to do that with three other people with similar goals. We are in our mid 30s and have played for 25 years or so and we are in a room together and essentially trying to find out what we don’t like about the way someone is playing but with the goal to have a better musical product. It’s almost unheard of because it is so competitive. Touring and performance, that’s not the pursuit, that’s the by-product of what we need to do finally and to share our music, but the special thing is the people I get to do that with.”

The string quartet has struck a special chord for Jason in its complex simplicity.

“It contains some of the most incredible repertoire ever written, strikes a perfect balance of voices, requires each member to be in peak playing shape, and holds each member accountable for bringing everything they have to offer every single time the ensemble plays,” he said. “It requires complete dedication and commitment, and yields a sonority like no other. Nearly all of the top composers of the past 200-plus years have written at least one string quartet. It's also quite amazing to hear the beautiful sounds that can be produced by four people playing on simple, wood, acoustic instruments.”

Beo has recently worked in the studio to go along with its festival tours, chamber music, and education tours.

“This most recent session was part of a huge project conceived of by Sean, for a piece he titled ‘Projection 1: Triple Quartet.’ It is something that no other string quartet has done before, to our knowledge, and incorporates many aspects of technology and amplification,” Jason said. “Not needing to know all of the layers of steps required to be taken by us, what the viewer experiences when seeing ‘Projection 1’ is three quartets on stage performing one unified work that incorporates all three ensembles. The string quartet in the middle is Beo, live, and the two quartets on either side of the live quartet are projected images that we have pre-recorded playing the two other quartet parts. All three parts not only work together, but are essential to the overall experience.”

For more information on Beo String Quartet, log on to www.beostringquartet.com.

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Published: 01/12/18



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