String theory with a groove

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By Claire Dietz

Claire-dietz@uiowa.edu

Kathryn Lockwood, a member of the Lark Quartet, plays the viola. Her husband, Yousif Sheronick, plays percussion.

While their instruments make it seem as if they wouldn’t have the opportunity to collaborate outside of a symphony-orchestra setting, the couple has redefined how a string quartet works in order to work together.

The Lark Quartet — consisting of Lockwood, violinists Deborah Buck and Basia Danilow, and cellist Caroline Stinson — has been in Iowa City this week as a part of Elizabeth Oakes’s String Quartet Residency Program. Today, the group will perform a concert featuring Sheronick on percussion, at 7:30 p.m. in the Voxman Concert Hall.

This year’s residency is full of firsts for Oakes, the program’s director. Not only is this her first year incorporating a percussionist — Sheronick — into a traditional quartet, it is also her first year collaborating with several writers from the International Writing Program.

On Monday, the quartet performed alongside IWP residents Courtney Sina Meredith, Akhil Katyal, and Ko Hua Chen, who selected works to read aloud between the quartet’s pieces. Oakes, who drew on more than 20 years of experience in a quartet to enact these changes, has long seen room for innovation in the medium.

“In chamber music, there is this idea of ‘Yes and …’ that is also found in improvisation,” she said. “When someone approaches me with a possibility or idea, my first thought is always ‘Yes and …’ ”

In this case, however, Oakes took the initiative.

“Those who know me know that I am not shy about contacting people I have never met about exploring a possible project,” Oakes said. “This approach, in combination with being part of such a vibrant university community, has created so many deeply meaningful opportunities for myself and the UI String Quartet Residency Programs artists to connect with faculty and thinkers across our campus.”

Sheronick, despite growing up in a Lebanese household, never had much of an opinion of world music until college.

“When I listened to world music, I heard the groove,” he said. “There was the thing that I missed with classical music at that point.”

This exposure, coupled with his time playing in rock bands and drum lines, led Sheronick further down his career path as a professional percussionist.

Lockwood, the violist who happens to also be married to Sheronick, said working with percussion has opened her up to a whole new world of musical composition. This sense of discovery, especially in the context of the string quartet, was intriguing to Lockwood as one of the unique aspects of the genre is the breadth — and depth — of material that exists for it.

“There is so much of a string-quartet repertoire out there,” she said. “You can spend your whole life [playing] and not even scratch the surface.”

However, the quartet decided to scratch a new surface with commissioning a percussion piece for a quintet — four strings and percussion — from composer Kenji Bunch, a violist and composer known for his alternative and groundbreaking compositions.

As the quartet’s residency wraps up, Oakes looks to the years ahead and the opportunities they hold.

“Each year will offer new possibilities with new writers and new guest quartets,” she said. “There are so many fascinating avenues we could explore.”

 

When: 7:30 p.m. today

Where: Voxman Concert Hall

Cost: Free

 

 

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