Quartet concert flyer: June 5, 2012
Photo by Kris Cheng

Piano and string quartet

I began playing the viola when I was 11 years old. At the time, I chose to play just because it was preferable to joining band, singing in choir, or enrolling in fine art. Now, after a decade of playing in the Youth Orchestras of San Antonio, the Clark High School Orchestra, and the Caltech-Occidental Symphony Orchestra, classical music has become a part of who I am. It has shaped my life inside and outside the rehearsal hall, and while I don't have much time to play viola in graduate school, I am happy to have played with Alex, Derek, and Jonathan in a piano and string quartet in 2011 and 2012.

The players

My friend Derek, our pianist/violinist, brought the quartet together in the summer of 2010 in a miraculous assemblage musicians from different backgrounds. Derek and I have known each other since college, and we were now both studying electrical engineering. Jonathan, our violinist, was a premed student studying for his MCAT exams, and Alex, our cellist, had just arrived at Stanford as a freshman! However, our love of Dvořák piano quartets united us, and we studied for two years together under Geoff Nutall, violinist of the St. Lawrence String Quartet.

The experience

The concerts we held are definitely the highlights of my experience with this quartet. Despite each of us having very demanding "day jobs," we devoted our free time practicing and rehearsing together to perform the music we enjoyed. We learned musical history, techniques, and context from Geoff throughout the year. Then, each spring, we set aside a special time to reserve the music hall, hold a concert for friends and family, and record the event for posterity!

Through my experience with the quartet, I learned how reinvigorating it can be to escape lab and my day-to-day routine to play music. It provided me space to focus and recharge. It also reconnected me with the diversity of people and ideas at Stanford; there is much to see and experience outside of the science and engineering quad! Playing in this quartet also gave me the opportunity to work with and become friends with strangers that eventually became close-knit team over our two years together.


When I first began playing, I used to become quite nervous during concerts. When playing viola solos with my high school orchestra, I used to become paralyzed, wanting every articulation and note to be played exactly as my coach and I intended them to be. However, over the years, my various concert performances have taught me to be less of a perfectionist and to be more flexible to recover when things don't go according to plan. Moreover, preforming as a small, intimate ensemble taught me to listen closely to the performers around me and respond in real-time, enhancing my sensitivity to my surroundings and giving me practice adapting to the concert as it unfolded. These skills readily transfer to my professional life, especially with respect to teaching or speaking in front of an audience. The best speeches and talks are ones where the speaker can engage and building rapport with his or her audience. I now feel more comfortable speaking as if conversing instead of regurgitating a scripted speech, and this makes me a better speaker.

The concerts

June 3, 2011 concert
Dvořák Piano Quartet No.1, Op.23, Allegro moderato and Andantino con variazioni

June 5, 2012 concert
Schumann Piano Quartet, Op.47, Andante cantabile
Schubert String Quartet No.14, D.810 "Death and the Maiden", Andante con moto
Brahms Piano Quartet No.1, Op.25, Rondo alla Zingarese