Bringing concert music into everyday life is not always the focus of chamber music groups, but it is a priority of the fearlessly imaginative Ying Quartet, whose members have been performing together in diverse settings for two decades.
The ASU School of Music, in the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts, is lucky to have this renowned group come to ASU for the 2016-17 annual visiting quartet residency program. Each year, the innovative program hosts a major professional string quartet for three visits, and these top musicians serve as featured artists and teachers for students, integrating a comprehensive chamber music curriculum into the extensive training.
“This will be the first time having the Ying Quartet in our residency,” said Jonathan Swartz, artistic director of the program and violin professor in the School of Music. “They are known for excelling in many of the things that distinguish our program — a commitment to communication, education, creation and performance of art relevant to our place and time, and impacting the community. They are an ideal quartet for our program, and our students are thrilled to get the opportunity to study with them.”
Thanks to their impressive qualifications and broad musical interests, the group performs regularly in world-renowned concert halls as well as more ordinary locales like workplaces, schools and even prisons. Their desire to explore the diverse possibilities of the string quartet and share it with others is what has led them to pursue such a range of experiences in which to showcase their art. This has helped truly set them apart in the chamber music world.
One of their primary ventures, an ongoing commissioning project called LifeMusic, was initiated to increase the string quartet repertoire. With support from the Institute for American Music, they commission emerging and established composers to write music that reflects contemporary American life and have accrued an impressive list of new titles.
“The second visit from the quartet will have the theme ‘Americana,’ to specifically bring into focus the Ying’s mission of commissioning works that represent different parts of America,” said Swartz. “We always try to tap into our visiting quartet’s interests and expertise, and this is one example.”
The School of Music’s quartet program is curriculum-based, with each visit from the quartet centering around a curricular project. Within a four-year window, four different quartets come to do a residency, with no repeats. There is a strong yearly continuity, thanks to multiple visits from the same quartet each year, yet during the typical duration of an undergraduate degree program, students are exposed to a variety of expertise by having a new quartet serve in residence each year. These features of the quartet program set it apart from similar offerings at other universities and help to ensure that School of Music string students receive the best possible training during their time at ASU.
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