Meet the Alumni: Dover Quartet

As the first string quartet in residence at Curtis and an increasingly sought-after international chamber ensemble, the Dover Quartet often functions as a unit. Here, we hear the individual voice of members Bryan LeeJoel LinkMilena Pajaro-van de Stadt, and Camden Shaw in a series of podcasts from Kai Talim (Skip the Repeat). Kai spoke with each member of the quartet over several months from November 2017 to August 2018. Browse these quotes from Milena and Joel or listen to the full podcasts below.

Full podcast with Bryan Lee

Full podcast with Camden Shaw

Milena Pajaro-van de Stadt

Photo credit: Carlin Ma

“We choose to be in the quartet, because we love playing in the quartet. And, more importantly, we love playing with one another.”

On choosing the viola:

I lived in Oxford when I was four and five years old. We walked through a park, and I saw someone outside with their violin case open, busking. And apparently, I pointed to it and said, “That’s what I want to play.” So [my parents] went and bought me a little violin, and I started Suzuki lessons.

All of fifth grade in elementary school, I played cello in the orchestra. And I played timpani in the band. I loved trying out other instruments. [In high school] I got really serious on trombone. I played in jazz band, youth symphony, I took private lessons every week. I loved it. And in a weird way, I kind of consider trombone my gateway drug to the viola.

Two sisters who were in my youth symphony both played violin. I played violin, my brother played cello—we thought we should make a quartet. One of us should just play viola. And I actually begged to be the one. I was like ‘ooh, a new instrument I get to try, let me do it.’ Every [new instrument’s] timbre was like finding another voice, and seeing if you could make it yours. Playing the viola is really exciting to me, and playing it in the quartet was what made me fall in love with it. From the moment that I started playing viola in that string quartet, I had two goals: I wanted to be a violist and I wanted to be in a string quartet.

On forming the Dover Quartet:

[After] that first concert together, [the quartet] had the relationship talk, where we’re like, ‘Do you want to stay together past school, or is it just a fling?’  And everyone was on the same page.

On connecting with audiences:

You don’t have to be an art major to go enjoy an art museum, right? There’s this weird stigma with classical music, where people feel like they shouldn’t go to a concert because they don’t know about it, or they haven’t studied it, or they’re scared they don’t know how to behave or what to wear. And so we kind of want to break that barrier. That’s one of the reasons it’s been really great to start talking at concerts, before you play.  You kind of break that wall and humanize one another by connecting with the audience that way.

This interview has been edited for length.