Cassatt in the Basin returns

Cassatt String Quartet cellist Gwen Krosnick, left, and violist Rosemary Nelis, right, give instructions to Odessa High orchestral students on May 18 at Odessa High. The Cassatt String Quartet will be returning to the Permian Basin next week. Michael Bauer|Odessa American

Next week, members of the New York-based Cassatt String Quartet will be visiting the Permian Basin again. As in past years, the members will both perform and coach string students in Odessa and Midland.

The musical education program is also known as Cassatt in the Basin which has brought the quartet to West Texas biannually for almost 20 years.

The program was founded by Cassatt String Quartet violinist Jennifer Leshnower who is originally from Odessa.

The quartet’s last visit to the Permian Basin was back in May.

“We always look forward to being in West Texas and for me, personally, it’s coming home,” Leshnower said.

In addition to coaching youth string musicians in the area, the quartet also plays numerous concerts, ranging from retirement homes to the schools and museums as well.

This fall, one new performance goes along with a story time at Ector County Library.

“This particular visit, the Ector County Library is new for us to work together,” Leshnower said. “We’re going to offer music that illustrates the story that the person will be reading and that will enrich the program that is already happening at the library. There’s something magical about storytelling, combined with music. That’s going to be wonderful.”

The week of activities begins Sunday when the string quartet will coach the Midland Odessa Youth Orchestra from 2-4 p.m.

At 1 p.m. Monday, an Outreach Concert will take place at Manor Park Retirement Home at 2208 N. Loop 250 W. in Midland, followed by a Coaching Young Women’s Leadership Academy from 2:30-4 p.m. at 1800 E. Wall St. in Midland.

Tuesday will include coaching Midland High School students from 12:40-3:10 p.m., followed by a 4 p.m. Outreach Concert at Polo Park Estates at 2100 Castleford Road in Midland.

From 10-10:30 a.m. Wednesday will be the quartet’s performance at the Ector County Library.

They will later be coaching Compass Academy students from 1:45-2:35 p.m. Wednesday.

Thursday will include an outreach concert from 8:15-9:45 a.m. at Midland Montessori School, at 1011 Austin St.

The quartet will also be doing story, music, crafts and coffee at Museum of the Southwest in Midland at 10 a.m. Friday.

“We’re collaborating with (Museum of the Southwest) again,” Leshnower said. “We’re going to work with Manor Park Retirement Home for the first time as well as the Young Women’s Leadership Academy. Since we are an all-female string quartet, I think we serve as role models for the young ladies.”

Most of the events throughout the week take place in the Odessa-Midland area with the exception of Oct. 14 and Oct. 15. A Cassatt Quartet Recital featuring bass player and Texas Tech University Professor Mark Morton at 7:30 p.m. next Friday at Buddy Holly Hall in Lubbock.

A Chamber Music Masterclass will take place from 10 a.m.-noon Oct. 15 at Texas Tech University’s Hemmle Recital Hall to conclude the week.

The Cassatt String Quartet also includes Muneko Otani on violin, Rosemary Nelis on viola and Gwen Krosnick on cello.

All four members were in the Permian Basin on their last visit in May.

“I’m thrilled,” Krosnick said who mentioned that she had not been to West Texas prior to last May. “I joined the Cassatt Quartet last season and without a doubt, Cassatt in the Basin, our week there in May, was one of the many highlights.”

Krosnick said one of her favorite parts about coming to the West Texas for Cassatt in the Basin is teaching the younger students.

“The teaching has been one of my personal favorite things to do and it always has been,” Krosnick said. “When I was in the process of auditioning and joining the quartet, learning about Cassatt in the Basin was a joy because I realized that this was built-in time. We were going to work with students that might not otherwise have been able to work with a string quartet that is from New York City; might not get to hear playing and get teaching from four women who are serious classical musicians. It’s a pleasure getting to work with kids that might not have access.”

Krosnick grew up outside of New York City.

“I went to concerts all the time as a kid,” Krosnick said. “I started playing when I was very young. In some ways, I took that for granted. … I was starstruck coming to West Texas, but it’s really enjoyable to connect the bridges and fill in some of the gaps and access that these kids might have to classical music to getting string teaching from guest artists. … It’s just giving kids the opportunity to hear live music and say ‘wow, this makes me hear something. I want to explore this some more.’ It’s such a joy to work with these kids and see the light bulbs go off. It’s great to get to share what we get to do with them.”

She has been playing the cello for almost 30 years now.

“I started when I was 7 which for most classical musicians, I would say that’s in the middle range,” Krosnick said. “Some of the members of the quartet started when they were 3 so 7 was a little older. I didn’t get serious about it until high school. That’s also a pleasure of getting to work with the kids because these kids are still in middle school and high school and trying to decide what they want to do, and it’s wonderful to get to share something that we love with them and show them that this is something that we’ve been building our lives around, and they can have that as well.”

Cassatt in the Basin was started in 2005.

“The idea is to enrich West Texas at both the community and the music programs with the Cassatt String Quartet performances and education programs and collaborate with artists, locally, and also institutions like the library and museums and etc,” Leshnower said.

For more information about Cassatt in the Basin, go to

If you go

  • What: Cassatt in the Basin.
  • When: Oct. 9-15.

  • What: Outreach Concert Manor Park Retirement Home.
  • When: 1 p.m. Monday.
  • Where: 2208 N. Loop 250 W., Midland.

  • What: Outreach Concert.
  • When: 4 p.m. Tuesday.
  • Where: Polo Park Estates (2100 Castleford Road, Midland).

  • What: Playtime (Story, music, crafts and coffee).
  • When: 10-10:30 a.m. Wednesday.
  • Where: Ector County Library.

  • What: Outreach Concert.
  • When: 8:15-9:45 a.m. Thursday.
  • Where: Midland Montessori School (1011 Austin St.).

  • What: Playdates (story, music, crafts and coffee)
  • When: 10 a.m. Oct. 14.
  • Where: Museum of the Southwest (1705 W. Missouri in Midland).

  • What: Cassatt Quartet Recital with Mark Morton, bass.
  • When: 7:30 pm. Oct. 14.
  • Where: Buddy Holly Hall (Crickets theater).

  • What: Chamber Music Masterclass.
  • When: 10 a.m.-noon Oct. 15.
  • Where: Texas Tech University Hemmle Recital Hall.