For the past two years, the University of Indianapolis has set itself apart from other universities in Central Indiana by having their own resident quartet on campus. The Indianapolis Quartet was established in 2016 as a part of a collaboration between the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra and UIndy. The quartet consists of first violinist Zach De Pue, violinist Joana Genova, violist Michael Strauss and cellist Austin Huntington.
Huntington said that one of the goals for the Indianapolis Quartet is to expand upon its associations with UIndy and Indianapolis. He specifically described the group’s wishes to expand access to the arts across the areas.
“A lot of people judge a city based on its arts, and how embedded and how well done its arts culture is,” Huntington said. “The University of Indianapolis…[has] a wonderful [and] growing arts program and music program. The ability to have a professional string quartet in residence, from a professional performing aspect, brings a level of professionalism that UIndy can now say is exclusively theirs.”
The quartet also receives financial support from the Christel DeHaan Family Foundation. After initially receiving a grant to start the group, they now propose projects to the foundation.
Genova said that they all practice their parts individually, on their own time, as well as the rehearsals they all do together. Their schedules are so chaotic that they themselves often do not know how long they will be able to practice that day until they are free from their work, according to Genova. She said that she is personally occupied with a lot of work off-campus and that she frequently finds herself thinking about practicing while doing mundane tasks, like driving.
“At our age, when you teach and rehearse, sometimes I have an hour, sometimes I have three,” Genova said. “It completely depends on the workload I have been given that day, and I think it’s the same for my colleagues as well. Sometimes you have to spend three hours in the car [traveling]. You wish you could be practicing…but [sometimes] you just have to drive.”
Strauss said that each of their performances has a meaning behind it, and conveying that meaning is the goal of each concert. He said that the quartet has a paradoxical desire to get a collective reaction out of the whole audience, but also give each audience member something different they can find meaning in.
“The string quartet playing is like creating a piece of art anew…”
“The string quartet playing is like creating a piece of art anew that is singularly deciphered by each audience member, but also as a collective [audience],” Strauss said. “I often run into people that are like ‘I don’t know if I want to go to the concert because I don’t feel like I know anything about the music you’re playing.’ Well, I like to tell people that all music was new once and it’s very exciting to play a work for someone who has no experience with the work, because the way they experience that work is so foreign to the way that we [musicians] experience it, because we know it so well.”
Strauss compared this genre of music to the some of the award-winning films Hollywood has produced. He said that string and orchestral music is never something that can be “dead,” and it is very much alive because of new, modern versions of the music.
The quartet’s latest performance was on April 20 in the Christel DeHaan Fine Arts Center. The performance was titled “Firsts.” It opened with Beethoven’s “String Quartet in F Major,” Op. 18, No. 1 and was then followed by “String Quartet No. 1 in C Major,” Op 49 by Dmitri Shostakovich and was concluded with Claude Debussy’s “String Quartet in G Minor, Op 10.”
The quartet has spread from UIndy since its founding in 2016. The group performed at Northwestern University in Chicago, Ill. on March 12 and in July, they will be performing at the Taconic Music Festival in Vermont. Genova will also be taking part in the Symphonic Wind Ensemble and Chamber Orchestra performance on April 25 in the CDFAC.