Student Spotlight:Graydon Tope ’14 and Parker Tope ’16

A mutual passion for classical music has strengthened the connection between sisters Graydon Tope ’14 and Parker Tope ’16.

Both Graydon, who plays the violin, and Parker, who plays the cello, have been playing their instruments since the age of two. Ever since Graydon picked up the violin for the first time, she has enjoyed playing for herself and for other people.

“It has always been a way for me to express myself in a way that I can’t even begin to describe. All I know is just that I’m so passionate about it, and I can always put feelings into it. It’s also very stress relieving,” said Graydon.

Graydon’s early passion for the violin was what encouraged Parker to pick up her own musical instrument.

“My inspiration for music has always been my sister. I would always listen to [Graydon] practice when I was younger. I started off with the violin at the age of two and half, but when I was three I decided that I wanted to play the cello instead,” said Parker in an e-mail to The Phillipian.

Driven by love of performing, the Tope sisters decided to start their own competitive classical chamber music group, Quartet Tzigane.

“[Quartet Tzigane] reflects how important music is to my life. I cannot imagine who I would be without it. My personality and everything about me would be so different. It has also made my relationship with my family, especially my sister, even stronger. At the end of the day, I wouldn’t be completely satisfied without it,” said Parker.

Composed of Graydon, Parker, 16-year-old violinist Sloane Wesloh and 13-year-old pianist Evren Ozel, the quartet has competed in three competitions since 2011 and has placed in every single one. According to Quartet Tzigane’s official Facebook page, the quartet was one of the 12 semi-finalists in the 2012 Fischoff National Chamber Music Competition.

The quartet was also featured on “From the Top,” a National Public Radio (NPR) show that broadcasts and celebrates musical talent in youth, according to Graydon.

However, in an effort to focus more on the development of their own solo repertoires, both Graydon and Parker as well as Ozel, have chosen to refrain from participating in school chamber music or Quartet Tzigane this year. Wesloh, who is currently attending Walnut Hill School for the Arts, will be adjusting to life at boarding school.

“We all decided to take a break year right now. We will still be personally practicing some quartet pieces and might perform later on this year, but right now this year will be pretty relaxed. Next year, hopefully we’ll be able to resume after all the practicing this year,” said Graydon.

Last year, since Graydon was the only one of the four that was at a boarding school, she had to travel between Massachusetts and Minnesota almost every other weekend and during breaks for practice and competitions. However, after Parker joined her at Andover this year and Wesloh began attending Walnut Hill, the group decided that practicing exclusively over the breaks would be most reasonable.

“Both Parker and I love playing in [the quartet]. It’s one of those places where we can actually just have fun. We’ve been playing music our whole lives. I think we’ve developed a very special bond as sisters by just playing music,” said Graydon.