Published on March 13, 2019 by Ashley Smith  

SYBARITE5 has come a long way from their beginnings on a street corner at the Aspen Music Festival in the early 2000s. The quintet, known for its genre-hopping chamber music, has now performed across 43 states for thousands of fans looking for a dynamic musical experience. But as the crowds and venues have grown, the group’s commitment to mentoring has endured. 

The quintet, which  joins together the talent and innovative styles of Sami Merdinian and Sarah Whitney, violins; Angela Pickett, viola; Laura Metcalf, cello; and Louis Levitt, bass, took time to host a masterclass and coffee hour with Samford students while on campus to perform in Brock Recital Hall. Their recital was part of the Davis Architects Guest Artist Series. 

They played student work during the masterclass and shared feedback over coffee and conversation in the music lounge.  Their advice to students echoed many of Samford’s philosophies. “Excellence is a given,” said Louis Levitt. Musicians have to be able to perform at the highest level and then there is room for innovation about approaching your career and music.  Samford’s music program strives to provide students that work ethic and instructional base while also offering business training through the new Catalyst curriculum.  Sarah Whitney noted, “Having the administrative tools is key to success. I never realized how much time I would spend on business related tasks as a musician.”

The musicians claim part of their success as a quintet is their similar career composition goals. They spend about 40% of their time performing as SYBARITE5 and then perform independently with other ensembles, teach and develop additional business opportunities. 

“Graduates of Samford’s program need to be prepared for a portfolio career similar to SYBARITE5’s artists,” noted Mark Lackey, assistant professor of music theory and composition.  “We need to give our students the tools to market themselves and manage their business opportunities. Our Catalyst curriculum lays that groundwork.” 

Pickett also noted the importance of musical history.  “You need to know your roots and that will allow you to open up to what is current,” She said. Having a music education equips musicians with the knowledge to “find their voice and passion and then communicate that to the audience.”

The music industry landscape is changing and SYBARITE5 is ahead of the curve in their innovative approach.  “Samford students were able to get an up close and personal perspective from industry professionals which makes the academic process much more relevant,” said Lackey.  Samford hosts guest artists throughout the year to connect students to the professional marketplace and build a network. 

Samford is a leading Christian university offering undergraduate programs grounded in the liberal arts with an array of nationally recognized graduate and professional schools. Founded in 1841, Samford is the 87th-oldest institution of higher learning in the United States. Samford enrolls 5,791 students from 49 states, Puerto Rico and 16 countries in its 10 academic schools: arts, arts and sciences, business, divinity, education, health professions, law, nursing, pharmacy and public health. Samford fields 17 athletic teams that compete in the tradition-rich Southern Conference and ranks 6th nationally for its Graduation Success Rate among all NCAA Division I schools.