Violist Jeremy Berry, a 2004 Sehome High School graduate, says classical music was always a part of his life. His older brother, Andrew, began playing violin when he was 5, and Jeremy says he would often sit in on his lessons with teacher Elizabeth Stuen-Walker.
"I, in turn, wanted to pick up an instrument," Jeremy says, "so I began studying viola with Elizabeth (Betsy) when I was 5.
"My first 'performance' was on a cardboard box in a student recital at Lairmont Manor where (hopefully) I showed that I knew how to hold my instrument with good posture and bow for the audience."
Berry is a member of the Calidore String Quartet, which formed in 2010 at Colburn Conservatory of Music in Los Angeles. The quartet will return to Bellingham to perform at the Bellingham Festival of Music.
The quartet participated in the Play it Forward Chamber Music Residency for Bellingham public schools in May 2012.
"We have always been very passionate about educational outreach," Berry says. "To play for so many classrooms, more than 20 over the course of a 12-day period, was an absolutely incredible experience for us. We only hope that through our performances we inspired them as much as they inspired us."
For people who have not attended a classical music concert, Berry's enthusiasm is palpable.
"One of the most amazing things about classical music is that every single individual in an audience is likely to have a uniquely personal reaction to the music that they hear," he says. "The performers do their best to play with as much passion and expression as possible.
"The audience members' reactions to the music are shaped by their own life experiences and even the mood that they are in while listening.
"It is important for people to understand that there is never one correct way of listening to music, and that they should not be intimidated by the idea that they might miss the meaning behind a piece.
"Classical music should not be perceived as something that happens on a faraway stage without audience involvement, but rather a dialogue that happens between performer and listener."
The theme for this year's festival is "Mentors and Protégés." Among the stellar musicians performing this year in the eight-concert season, under the direction of conductor Michael Palmer, are soprano Joanna Mongiardo, violinist Stefan Jackiw, pianist Richard Goode and guitarist Pablo Sáinz Villegas.
"We are very excited about sharing the stage with such incredible musicians this summer at the Bellingham Festival of Music," Berry says. "I have been attending festival concerts since I was very young and feel honored that my quartet has the chance to share some of our favorite music with such an amazing community and audience."
What: Bellingham Festival of Music.
When: July 5 to 20.
Where: Concerts are at Western Washington University Performing Arts Center, Bellingham Cruise Terminal and Christ the Servant Lutheran Church.
Tickets: $12, $35 and $45, available at 360-650-6146 and tickets.wwu.edu.
Details: 360-201-6621, bellinghamfestival.org.
The musician description in the headline was corrected June 27, 2014.