A trio of artists bring unique program ‘Personal Reflections of War’ to Norton Feb. 9 

Published 8:42 am Friday, January 26, 2018


Press release

Photos contributed
The American String Quartet

The American String Quartet, poet Tom Sleigh and author Phil Klay bring their unique and timely program “Personal Reflections of War: In Words and Music” to the Norton Center February 9. This groundbreaking event examines the effects of war on individuals – their hearts, minds and souls, and features music by Bach, Barber, Bartok and Shostakovich, in rotation with poems and short stories written and presented by National Book Award–winning author and US Marine veteran Phil Klay and award-winning poet and war correspondent Tom Sleigh.

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Internationally recognized as one of the world’s finest ensembles, the American String Quartet has spent decades honing the luxurious sound for which it is famous. The quartet celebrated its 40th anniversary in 2014, and, in its years of touring, has performed in all 50 states and has appeared in the most important concert halls worldwide.

Whether you are a fan of classical music, intense fiction or poetry, this performance will be a unique and memorable experience that interweaves music and words to keep the audience on the edge of their seats,” said Steve Hoffman, executive director of the Norton Center.  “Familiar works by Bach, Shostakovich and other traditional composers and powerful prose and poetry pull together the emotions and stories of the human condition as it relates to soldiers at war and returning from fighting on behalf of our country.  In addition, the musicians and authors will be spending a couple of days providing free workshops related to the topic of personal reflections of war.”

The quartet’s innovative programming and creative approach to education has resulted in notable residencies throughout the country. The quartet continues as quartet in residence at the Manhattan School of Music (1984-present) and the Aspen Music Festival (1974-present). The ASQ taught in Beijing, China, from 2005 to 2014, and travels widely abroad. Formed in 1974 when its original members were students at The Juilliard School, the ASQ was launched by winning both the Coleman Competition and the Naumburg Chamber Music Award in the same year.

Tom Sleigh

Sleigh’s many books include “Station Zed,” “Army Cats” — winner of the John Updike Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters (AAAL), and “Space Walk” — winner of the $100,000 Kingsley Tufts Award. He teaches at Hunter College and works as a journalist in the Middle East and Africa. 

Klay is a graduate of Dartmouth College and a veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps. He served in Iraq’s Anbar Province from January 2007 to February 2008 as a public affairs officer. After being discharged he received an MFA from Hunter College. Klay’s writing has appeared in the New York Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, Newsweek and the Brookings Institution’s Brookings Essay series.

The writers and musicians will participate in several community engagement activities while in residency at the Norton Center. These activities are free and open to the public. Visit NortonCenter.com for additional information on times and locations. 

Phil Klay

Community engagement activities 

Community activities offered are still being organized, but will include a workshop by Klay and a workshop by Sleigh, both scheduled for Feb. 8 with the times pending. Klay will discuss his book “Redeployment,” taking readers to the front lines of wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. He’ll discuss his writing and experiences serving there as a US Marine, and the intersection of both.  Sleigh will discuss his current body of work and his experience as a long-form journalist in the Middle East and Africa, as well as his yet-to-be-released book of essays, “The Land Between Two Rivers: Poetry in an Age of Refugees” and companion book of poems, “One War Everywhere.” 

Also on Feb. 8, at 11:20 a.m., a panel discussion will be held — Exploring War and the Human Condition through an Artistic Perspective. The panel will include both Klay and Sleigh, as well as the American String Quartet. 

On Feb. 9, at 3 p.m., a workshop with the ASQ will be offered where members will discuss their work, background and experience participating in this program. Also that afternoon, an open rehearsal will be held, offering audiences an exclusive, behind-the-scenes look at performance preparation, then a gathering activity focusing on narrative storytelling where the artists will all participate. 


The American String Quartet with Tom Sleigh and Phil Klay will appear 8 p.m. Feb. 9 at Norton Center for the Arts. Tickets are priced at $39 and $49 and are available at  NortonCenter.com or by calling (859) 236-4692. Audience members should be advised this performance may contain strong language and mature themes.