Indiana, PA - Indiana County

Sybarite5 bringing eclectic sound to stage at IUP

by HEATHER ROTH on March 10, 2014 10:50 AM

Prepare for Mozart, or Radiohead, or perhaps something with even a more international flavor when the string quartet Sybarite5 performs Tuesday at Indiana University of Pennsylvania as part of the Lively Arts’ Ovations! series.

“Expect a little bit of everything,” said violist Angela Pickett. “It’s a very mixed program. (There is) something for everyone.”

Sybarite5 is composed of Pickett, on the viola; Sami Merdinian and Sarah Whitney, on violins; Laura Metcalf, on the cello; and Louis Levitt, playing bass.

They originally formed at the Aspen (Colo.) Music Festival, where they continue as the Alumni Ensemble.

Pickett said Levitt first experimented with re-creating rock music sounds on stringed instruments on his own at the festival.

When the audiences reacted well, he started looking to create a more permanent group.

Formed in 2009, Sybarite5 now performs 35 to 40 formal concerts each year, all over the country.

They performed in Fairbanks, Alaska, before coming to Indiana, and hope to eventually perform in every state.

And in 2011 they were the first string quintet to win the Concert Artists Guild International Competition.

“Every season gets a little better,” Pickett said.

While trained in classical style, the group performs everything from Mozart to arrangements of popular rock pieces.

“We don’t discriminate against any type of music,” said Sami Merdinian. “We have one rule: that’s playing the music that we love. … Our program ends up being a very eclectic mix of different genres and styles.”

Merdinian said they look for a more casual concert performance than one might expect for a string quartet: “Like we’re coming to someone’s living room and sharing our music in a very casual style,” he said.

Rather than print a paper program, they announce their selections from the stage, explain what they’re playing and why, and try to create some “casual banter to get the audience involved,” he said.

They perform at IUP at 8 p.m. Tuesday in Gorell Recital Hall, on the second floor of John Sutton Hall. Tickets are $20, or $16 for seniors and groups of 15 for more, and $12 for children. They may be purchased at the Hadley Union Building ticket office, online at or by calling (724) 357-1313. Tickets will also be sold at the door starting 45 minutes before the performance.

For more information or to listen to samples of the group’s music, visit www.

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