The String Queens


Praised for its “authentic, soulful, and orchestral sound,” The String Queens is a dynamic trio that creates stimulating musical experiences that inspire diverse audiences to love, hope, feel, and imagine. With an array of repertoire spanning from the Baroque era to the Jazz Age to today’s Billboard Hot 100 Chart, The String Queens perform versatile programs that transport audiences through time and a multitude of musical genres.

Student Guide

The String Queens (or TSQ) are a trio of women who reach diverse audiences—lovers of jazz, classical, soul, and pop music alike—through their string instruments. With Élise Cuffy on cello (the largest instrument in the ensemble), Dawn Johnson on viola (a bigger version of the violin), and Kendall Isadore on violin, these DC artists play it all. From seventeenth to eighteenth century Baroque (bah-roke) music to jazz to songs from Billboard’s Hot 100 Chart, TSQ focuses on giving their audience an experience that broadens their musical horizons and inspires them to hear something new each time. It’s no surprise to their fans that they’ve shared the stage with “Queen of Soul” Aretha Franklin, pop icons like Demi Lovato and Ariana Grande, as well as jazz legend Wynton Marsalis.

Part of what draws audiences into the music of TSQ is the very instruments they play and the way they make those instruments sing. Pulling their bows emotionally over the strings, the women expertly convey the deepest human emotions, moving audiences—regardless of the kind of music they play. Check out the depth of their music in their vast portfolio.

TSQ credits much of their success with the education they received—Cuffy and Isadore at Howard University in DC, and Johnson at The Julliard School in New York. The women of TSQ are committed to the future of music education, hoping to inspire and prepare the next generation of musicians. They’re music teachers by day, directing string orchestra programs through the KIPP charter school network, and performers by night, as they transport audiences across the country through time and new musical experiences.


Writer: Tori P. Friedrich
Content Editor: Lisa Resnick
Logistics Coordination: Katherine A. Huseman
Program Manager: Tiffany A. Bryant



David M. Rubenstein

Deborah F. Rutter

Mario R. Rossero
Senior Vice President


Presenting Sponsor of Performances for Young Audiences

Additional support for the Concerts for Young Audiences in the REACH is provided by A. James & Alice B. Clark Foundation; the Kimsey Endowment; The Morris and Gwendolyn Cafritz Foundation; Paul M. Angell Family Foundation; and the U.S. Department of Education.

Funding for Access and Accommodation Programs at the Kennedy Center is provided by the U.S. Department of Education.

Major support for educational programs at the Kennedy Center is provided by David M. Rubenstein through the Rubenstein Arts Access Program.

The contents of this Guide have been developed under a grant from the U.S. Department of Education and do not necessarily represent the policy of the U.S. Department of Education. You should not assume endorsement by the Federal Government.

© 2019 The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.

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