TCHS Rampage

Temple City High School


March 20, 2017

String quartet pursues their four-te


In the midst of silence, Sophomore Brian Cheng and Juniors Melissa Lai, Aron Lee and Elaine Young sharpen their focus as they look at each other attentively before playing the joyous opening of Antonín Dvořák’s String Quartet No. 12 Op. 96 Movement I.
The piece was assigned three months before the quartet posted a video of themselves playing on YouTube on Feb. 1, in order to be considered for the Junior Chamber Music Honors Program.
JCM is an organization that allows young musicians to play classical music in small groups, which is called chamber music. If a group’s skill is advanced enough to the JCM audition judges, they can audition to become an Honors group by posting a video of themselves playing an assigned piece on YouTube. Only a select few that are chosen to try out are allowed to join the JCM Honors Program.
On Feb. 4, the group’s coach, professional violinist Ms. Carrie Kennedy, notified the four that they made it into the Honors Program.
In the quartet, Lee plays Violin I, Cheng plays Violin II, Lai plays the viola and Young plays the cello. The creation of the group began with Lai and Young, who auditioned successfully for the JCM ensemble program. JCM organizes musicians in groups based on their age and skill level, but Lai and Young had trouble being sorted into their groups because they were unfamiliar with the other auditionees and lived further away from them.
The two asked Cheng and Lee to join them since they have known each other since elementary school. JCM allows preformed groups to join automatically, so Cheng and Lee did not need to audition individually.
Although the four musicians all attend TCHS, a challenge they often face is schedule conflicts. In order to find time to rehearse together, each member has to make sacrifices in their schedules and prioritize which of their extracurriculars are the most important.
Each member has more than five years of individual experience. However, sometimes they have playing at the same pace. As a solution, the quartet plays slowly or uses a metronome.
“I hope to gain better ensemble skills by playing in this quartet,” Lai said. “That’s because when you play with others you have to be sensitive to the group’s sound as a whole instead of being responsible for your own part.”
Generally, the group meets up at each other’s houses once a week from 6 to 8 p.m. to practice their music. Occasionally, they have lessons with Ms. Kennedy, whom they can schedule up to a total amount of eight hours in coaching sessions for the whole year.
If the quartet performs their Dvořák piece well enough in their performance on Mar. 12 at the Colburn School of Music, they will be one of the six or seven JCM Honor groups, out of a pool of 13, to go on a tour, possibly to Japan, in 2018. In addition, they also were asked to perform a world premiere written by UCLA composer Pin Hsin Lin at the Schoenberg Hall on the UCLA campus on May 16.
“As a member of this quartet, I expect it to be enjoyable for everyone in my group and those who are listening,” Lee said. “I feel our accomplishments are going well so far. We have attained an Honors status in the program, but we have yet to accomplish more at our upcoming performances.” orch2

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William Lu
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