Shanghai String Quartet to help teach ASU student musicians

Weigang Li, Honggang Li, Yi-Wen Jiang and Nicholas Tzavaras. The Shanghai String Quartet will visit ASU during the 10th anniversary of the Visiting Quartet in Residence program this year. Members of the quartet, from left to right: Weigang Li, Honggang Li, Yi-Wen Jiang and Nicholas Tzavaras. (Photo courtesy of Shanghai String Quartet)

The Shanghai String Quartet will visit ASU during the 10th anniversary of the Visiting Quartet in Residence program.

This program hosts a quartet three times over a given school year. This year the group will help students perfect project from composers including Beethoven and Bartok, ASU violin professor Jonathan Swartz said.

Some schools have similar programs in that a quartet may live on campus permanently throughout the year. Others bring in a quartet for one period. ASU’s is different; the Shanghai String Quartet will visit three separate times for three days in each period.

The visits will each focus on separate projects on which the students have been working.

“It’s unique among music schools nationwide in that … we combine this idea of having the continuity of having multiple visits from the same quartet,” Swartz said.

These three visits, which Swartz described as a “very intense period,” will consist of studying, rehearsals and one-on-one lessons. Each visit will culminate in a concert open to the public from the quartet.

The quartet consists of Weigang Li, Yi-Wen Jiang, Honggang Li and Nicholas Tzavaras. The group plays more than 70 concerts each year in three continents.

Shanghai String Quartet booking manager Susan Endrizzi Morris said the opportunity to come to ASU was a great one not only for the students, but for her clients.

“It’s an amazing opportunity,” she said. “There are very few times when an ensemble goes back to the same students and the same music department three times within a year.”

Being able to create relationships over multiple periods will help the students and give the quartet a greater chance to help.

Each group that has come into ASU through the Visiting Quartet in Residence program focuses on a specific expertise. Swartz said the Shanghai String Quartet’s revolved around its performance experience and ability to study music from both a historical and an execution standpoint.

Morris added that the group has a two-fold expertise involving the music it performs.

While it performs a lot of Western music, she said it probably performs more music from Chinese composers than other quartets. Additionally, she said, it commissions from many composers in an effort to expand the music available to string quartet players.

This has come from about 10 years of professional experience.

“They are a full-time quartet," she said. "There are not many quartets in the world that make their living off of being a quartet."

The group came to America 28 years ago, Weigang Li, first violinist, said. At the time, some of their teachers were younger than them, and some ranged up to 70 years old.

When we were students 25 years ago, we had great teachers,” Li said. “I remember how excited I was when I had great coaching or great lessons.”

This coincides with what he said the group is most excited about.

“I think it’s just to come to the University and share our experiences with the students,” he said.


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