The Parker Quartet has spent 17 years becoming one of the most acclaimed chamber ensembles around. Since joining together in 2002, violinists Daniel Chong and Ken Hamao, cellist Kee-Hyun Kim and viola player Jessica Bodner have played at Carnegie Hall and Lincoln Center, collaborated with world-renowned cellist Yo-Yo Ma’s Silk Road Ensemble, and won a Grammy for Best Chamber Music Performance, among many other accomplishments.
That’s the level of expertise that the Quartet will bring to its residency at the University of South Carolina’s School of Music’s Chamber Music Residency from Oct. 24 to 27, and then again in 2020. The USC residency, which the group returns to for a seventh straight year, is one of several that the quartet takes part in, along with programs at the University of Iowa, Skidmore College, the University of Chicago and more.
The residencies this academic year will include public concerts, master classes and community outreach events, a crowded schedule that Chong says is both exciting and challenging.
“It’s kind of a jam-packed moment in the year both for us and for the School of Musicbecause we’re doing such a wide variety of things,” he says. “We are sort of infiltrating the university for a week, where we’re doing masterclasses, doing coaching, concerts, collaborations with faculty members and community engagement work. So it has many different dimensions, but it all happens in a week. It can be kind of thrilling.”
As part of their October residency, the Parker Quartet will perform two concerts, one at the School of Music Recital Hall on Oct. 24 and one at the Darla Moore School of Business’ Johnson Performance Hall on Oct. 27.
For the first concert, a ticketed event, the group will perform classic works by Franz Joseph Haydn and Antonín Dvořák, along with a more contemporary piece by Iannis Xenakis. The second performance, called the Family Concert, is considerably shorter and free, featuring works by Mozart and Shostakovich; USC Associate Professor of Viola Daniel Sweaney will join the quartet for the program.
Chong says that the ensemble created the programs for the two concerts with different goals.
“The one on Thursday night we programmed as if we would be at any other performance at any major venue in the world,” he says. “So it’s really a reflection of the quartet’s identity not only as performers but also in terms of the variety of styles we play. That program gives you a three dimensional view of who the quartet is.”
“And then with the Family Concert,” he continues, “we wanted it to be a chance for people who may not want to commit to a traditional concert. Maybe they’ll want to hear a quartet like this for the first time, or maybe it’s a parent with a young child wanting to expose them to live music. We try to take both as opportunities to connect with the larger community in different ways.”
Chong says that residency programs are part of the quartet’s interest in education. The members hold graduate degrees in performance and chamber music from the New England Conservatory of Music and The Juilliard School, and they’re dedicated to passing their knowledge along.
“Educational residencies are really important for us,” Chong offers. “The study of music is something that can only be passed on in person. YouTube can be a great source of exposure to different performers, and you can watch tutorial videos, but in the end there’s nothing like being in a room with a fellow musician who can demonstrate the tactile nature of what it is to do something on an instrument, to convey the essence of what a piece is about. That’s something we’re passionate about.”
There’s a professional advantage to the quartet’s residencies, as well. Though that advantage isn’t necessarily financial.
“I would say more than the financial aspect of it, a big part of it is building relationships,” Chong says. “Building relationships with faculty and musicians is really important in terms of building your own musical community and support structure. I think that provides a way to share and engage with other musicians and keep a stimulating environment alive in terms of learning and growing as people and as musicians. And I think that when you get to return to a place, that’s the best relationship you can have, because it gives you a chance to get to know each other further, to take more risks together, and to kind of expand each other’s worlds together.”
What: Parker Quartet Chamber Music Residency Fall 2019
Where: University of South Carolina, multiple locations
When: Oct. 23-Oct. 27