In the piece “Eight Colors for String Quartet,” the music is divided into eight individual sections, similar to a set of brush paintings, through which musical notes are shared and cultivated. Together, the eight sections create a drama, a kind of ritualistic performance structure.

The Ying Quartet, four siblings from Chicago, has also established a ritualistic performance structure. As a group, their individual talents coalesce into a harmonious ensemble, linked through both musical and familial ties. The three brothers, David, Timothy and Philip, and sister, Janet, grew up in Chicago and began their quartet career in Jesup, Iowa in 1992. In 1993, they won the Naumberg Chamber Music Award, and they currently teach music as the in-residence quartet at the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, N.Y.

In addition to teaching music at Eastman, they also make up the Blodgett Quartet-in-residence at Harvard University. There, they interact with student musicians and offer four free concerts on campus over the course of their residency.

In a project called the LifeMusic, the quartet performs a series of commissions contributed by various composers. The Quartet asks each composer to draw from their own personal American experiences when creating their pieces. The project is intended to celebrate the diversity of the American experience.

Aside from their international fame and hectic concert schedule, the members of the Quartet maintain a down-to-earth demeanor. When asked if they tried to incorporate their heritage into their music, the eldest sibling, David, responded, “Food is the main way we keep our heritage.” In fact, they keep a running record of their favorite Chinese restaurants for every city they visit (which is posted on their website). One can get a better sense of their ‘sibling revelry,’ by visiting their website, which gives visitors a personal glimpse into the lives of this internationally renowned quartet.

Each member took up their own instrument by choice when they were younger. While these instruments happened to be the exact ones needed to form a quartet – two violins, a viola and a cello – the idea of a quartet was not conceived until after they arrived at the Eastman School of Music in 1988.

The Quartet will be performing “Quartet in B-flat Major” and “Eight Colors for String Quartet” as their University Musical Society musical debut this weekend.

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