Young Chicago Cellist Strives to Bring Music into the Community

Allegra Montanari (Jessica Gervais/Chicagotalks)

At only 24, Chicago cellist Allegra Montanari has already achieved many milestones in her 14- year musical career.

She is a performer, teacher and founding member of both a musical volunteer program and string quartet and has brought volunteer musicians to play in two Chicago hospitals for patients.

Montanari’s musical journey with the cello started in 6th grade. She was introduced to the cello during an instrument petting zoo, where the music director at her middle school brought in all types of instruments for students try out. Montanari tried everything from flute to harp, but something about the sound of the cello attracted her.

“It sounds like some freaky hallelujah moment, but I guess that’s what it was,” Montanari said. “I just fell in love.”

In 2010, Montanari graduated from Jacobs School of Music at Indiana University with a bachelor of music in cello performance and a business minor from Kelley School of Business.

Montanari was persuaded to travel to Chicago by teacher and Chicago Symphony Orchestra cellist John Sharp. In 2012 she received her master’s in music at the Chicago College of Performing Arts at Roosevelt University. She now lives in Lincoln Park.

Montanari is a founding member and cellist of the Battery String Quartet along with Arturo Ziraldo on viola, Breana Bauman and Joanna Grosshans, both on violin.

The group got started after a call from Ziraldo to Montanari suggesting the four musicians get together and play through the Debussy string quartet.

Montanari said that for a group only knowing each other through second-hand connections, the four got along well. Everyone was equally matched and had a similar idea of making music approachable for the audience, said Montanari.

“We are young people playing this very old music, but we feel it is our responsibility to bring the music to life without losing the integrity of the piece,” Montanari said.

After the first concert, the group decided to push the quartet and continue preparing for future concerts.

Ziraldo said he finds working with Montanari rewarding. She is dedicated and self–motivated, strong, creative and easy to work with — all hard qualities to find in musicians, said Ziraldo.

For more information on the Battery Sting Quartet, visit their Facebook page at

Montanari is also a member at the First United Methodist Church. Occasionally during services, Montanari plays solos and accompanies the church’s ensemble, the Chicago Temple Strings. Montanari also plays in the annual presentation of the Jakub Jan Ryba Christmas Mass with the church’s orchestra.

Erik Nussbaum, music director of First United Methodist Church, describes Montanari’s passion by quoting Turkish poet Rumi: “Open the window in the center of your chest and let the spirits fly in and out.”

That is exactly what Montanari does, said Nussbaum. She feels the emotion in the music and channels it through every fiber of her being, he said.

In December 2011, Montanari decided to start Musicians in Action, a volunteer program focused on giving back to the community through music.

Montanari met with Henry Fogel of the Chicago College of Performing Arts at Roosevelt University and brought up the idea of starting a program in which student musicians could give back to the community.

Montanari said she found it strange that the university, with its emphasis on social justice, did not offer volunteer programs for musicians.

The group started a partnership with Northwestern Memorial’s Prentice Women’s Hospital in Chicago playing soothing music in the hospital’s cancer ward.

Most patients and their families stay at the hospital for weeks with limited distractions, so bringing music into the environment gives them a healing distraction, said Montanari.

“It’s rewarding as musicians to know that we are making people feel better by sharing what we love to do,” Montanari said.

Recently Musicians in Action partnered with LaRabida Children’s Hospital.

“A lot of the children that we play for are developmentally delayed, so we play music the kids can dance and clap to. Getting them to interact with the music is really important,” said Montanari.

With positive responses from Chicago-area hospitals, Montanari said she would ultimately like to see Musicians in Action grow into a large nonprofit organization bringing music to hospitals across the nation.

“Music is a service. It is not something separate or detached from the community, but something that every community needs,” said Montanari.

For more information on Musician’s in Action, visit their facebook page at

For information on Montanari’s upcoming concerts, visit her website at

Posted by on November 27, 2012. Filed under Art, Community, Editor's Choice. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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