Life in a string quartet: Interview with Sean Neukom

Composer, instrumentalist, and producer Sean Neukom is the violist and founding member of Beo String Quartet. Prior to Beo, Sean played with the Nashville Symphony, the Dunedin Philharmonic (New Zealand), and the West Virginia Symphony Orchestra. He earned a Bachelor of Music at Minot State University and a Master of Music in violin performance at the Cleveland Institute of Music. His compositions cover a wide range of styles and has produced 9 albums and 60 recording projects.

photo of Sean Neukom with his viola

ASN: Can you tell me a brief history of the Beo String Quartet?

SN: Jason, my brother, and I founded Beo in 2015. We had dreamt about performing together professionally for years. Beo was formed with certain ideas in mind: 1) to play music at a high level with people we care about; 2) to continue to push our understanding of music. In the first few seasons, we really focused on contemporary music. This included a recurring tenure as the resident quartet with the Charlotte New Music Festival. Through that residency, we made some lasting connections and friendships that have led to very rewarding projects. In the last 4-ish years, we’ve been concertizing, building up our label, and focusing on projects that I compose for us.

ASN: You recently went on tour. Can you give me some insights into the logistics of this? How did you set up gigs and itinerary?

SN: Tours are great! And can be arduous. Sometimes our manager can build a block of concerts on her own. Other times, she’ll set up a single concert, and along with our personal connections, we’ll jointly build around that one concert as much as we can. Sometimes this leads to being on the road for 2 weeks. That’s balanced out with occasional one-off concerts. Both have their advantages and disadvantages. The tours are great for consistent, high-level performances where you can focus mostly on performing. But time away from our families can wear. The one-off concerts aren’t as helpful for the bottom line, and sometimes you need to dust off a seasoned work for just one performance. However, on the flip side, it can be nice to run out for a day or two, and basically keep your weekly work going. 

Photo of Beo String Quartet
Beo String Quartet. L-R: Sean Neukom, Ryan Ash, Jason Neukom, Andrew Giordano

ASN: What have you learned, or what advice would you give to classical musicians setting up their first tour?

SN: Work with someone not in the ensemble, if possible. We all have contacts. But a dedicated manager simply has a larger reach, and they typically have a deeper insight into presenters’ audiences. This is valuable information. Additionally, make sure you’re choosing your programs with thought, care, and from different potential audience members’ perspectives.

ASN: Now I’d like to get into the musical aspects. How do you choose your repertoire?

SN: A number of factors determine our rep for a specific season: fulfilling requirements for a specific project, grant, or festival; filling out missing eras, feels, or sounds in our concerts; wanting to work with a specific composer; fulfilling the needs of a specific presenter; wanting to give plenty of seasoning to a work that is to be recorded down the road; and, of course, wanting to tick works off of our collective bucket list. There is no work that gets performed, or programmed, without significant discussion. When we take on a new work, we’re typically going to live with it for some time; we want to ensure a sound balance between artistic fulfillment and strategy.  

ASN: What advice can you give to musicians about rehearsing? What makes a successful rehearsal vs. a non-successful rehearsal?

SN: A successful rehearsal hinges on the shared desire to achieve specific goals set for that session. If the goal is to play through a ton of music and there ends up being loads of discussion, that’s a pretty unsuccessful rehearsal. However, if the same level of discussion occurs in a rehearsal aimed at aligning everyone’s understanding of the musical concepts within a particular piece, it could pave the way for a highly successful session. Every person needs to have some idea of what is to be accomplished. 

ASN: You recently launched a new YouTube channel. What was your inspiration for the channel and what can we expect to see in the future?

SN: Yes, I recently launched a new website and a YouTube Channel for a project I’m calling artTracks Chronicle. The goal of artTracks is to empower listeners and artists by reimagining the music industry. The site offers exclusive filmic tracks and a range of free resources that educate and inspire.  The channel is focusing on videos that examine the aspects of music creation, performance, and production. The project launched in March–so very new! So far, the music found on the site’s marketplace features tracks that I’ve written. The goal is to quickly offer tracks by other artists interested in releasing music in an exclusive, non-streaming manner. It’s just in the early stages, but I’m very excited about the project. 

ASN: Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Sean! Readers, I invite you to check out the trailer for Sean’s YouTube channel below, or visit his site,

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