Written by PA Intern Risheetha Bhagawatula.

The PA String Quartet (PAQ) is one of the Philharmonic Association’s chamber ensembles currently coached under Bonnie Thron. This group, comprised of Kenny Zhang (Violin), Seunne Khoo (Violin), Rebecca Cai (Viola), and Elizabeth Nam (Cello), has performed at numerous festivals and community events.

I recently sat down with the musicians to get some insight into their experience playing in the PAQ.

When did you join the Quartet, and why?

Seunne: I joined the Quartet back in 2018 after I was invited by a member. I thought it would be a pretty fun experience. 

Elizabeth: I joined in the fall of 2020, also because I was invited by one of the members. Also, since it was during COVID, a lot of music opportunities were down, so when the PAQ invited me, I took it. 

What do you like about chamber music?

Elizabeth: What I like about chamber music is how every instrument can play different beats, different notes. In the end, it’s more about how we can all play together and it’s pretty amazing how it all comes to be.  

Rebecca: It’s like four voices in the quartet, so you need to know what other parts are being played so you can match them. You get more connected than you would in a huge orchestra.

What is your favorite part about being a member of PAQ?

Kenny: What I like about being in the Quartet is the socializing. Basically every session we joke around and laugh periodically. I also like the pieces we’re playing… playing the different styles of pieces compared to a lot of the orchestras I play in. In orchestras, it’s mostly classical, but in the quartet, we play a lot more contemporary music. 

What skills have you gained by playing in PAQ that have helped you grow as a musician?

Seunne: Especially since we play more modern music, there are a couple of techniques on the violin that I have to learn, it’s not something that I usually encounter in my solo repertoire. There are also group working skills that being in a quartet helps with, and also leadership if you are playing first violin.

Kenny: I improved a lot in collaborative skills compared to orchestras where you just follow the conductor.    

What has been your favorite piece/performance in the PAQ so far?

Seunne: For pieces, one of the pieces we are working on now, Tchaikovsky’s Quartet No. 3 (third movement), has been pretty fun so far.

Elizabeth: A favorite performance was an outreach we did over the summer. There was a piece where we played with balloons instead of our instruments. It was weird but also funny at the same time and no one could hold their laughter. It was a really fun time. 

Kenny: Same as Libby. The balloons were pretty fun to play with, and interacting with the other kids was pretty fun.

Rebecca: One of my favorite pieces is one of Schubert’s. It’s called Death and the Maiden, which I think is pretty cool. 

Thank you very much to the PAQ musicians for their time!