Loki String Quartet

Graduate Brings Loki String Quartet to WPI

January 21, 2016
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The Loki String Quartet’s Jan. 24 concert in Spaulding Recital Hall will be a sort of homecoming for Subaiou Zhang ’10, who re-launched her passion for music while studying biotech at WPI, and now plays professionally.

Loki String Quartet

Although Zhang returned to play at WPI as a guest soloist with WPI’s orchestra after graduation, she is especially happy to return to WPI in this capacity. She came to WPI as a student from China with an eye toward a career in sciences. What she found was a place that allowed her to pick up her beloved violin after nearly a decade of not playing, and with venues and orchestras that let her rediscover her love of playing and performing once again.

She brings her quartet, the Boston-based Loki String Quartet to WPI for a concert of three pieces. The concert will include Beethoven’s Quartet No. 2 in G major (Op. 18, No. 2); Kreisler’s Quartet in A minor; and Schubert’s Quartet No. 14 in D Minor, (D.810), Death and the Maiden.

“My experience at WPI is at the foundation of what I am doing now. There was something special in the education we received there.” – Subaiou Zhang ’10

“Whenever alumni do concerts, it’s a wonderful opportunity,” says Professor Doug Weeks, coordinator of music; associate head of the Department of Humanities and Arts; and director of the WPI Orchestra, Concert Band, and Brass Ensemble. Likening his role to one of a coach, Weeks says it is exciting to see his students pursue something they love, and he is especially happy at Zhang’s return. “She played here as a college student, and she comes back as a professional. It’s nice to see students grow and move into that.”

WPI might be known for its technical courses, but Zhang says there are many talented students who are also involved in the creative fields and trying to decide their next step. “When I was there, I didn’t know what I would do in the future and didn’t think I would have a career in music,” says Zhang. “I think some of the students who will come to the concert will have a similar experience of being not sure of their future but of playing music.” She hopes her story can serve as an inspiration that they can pursue what they love, whatever that might be.

Zhang was on track to go to medical school or to earn some kind of science-based master’s degree, but with some soul-searching, she realized music was what she really wanted to do. She is now pursuing a doctorate of musical arts in violin performance at Boston University.

“My experience at WPI is at the foundation of what I am doing now,” she says, noting that her husband, Brant Carter is also an alum of the Class of ’10. “There was something special in the education we received there.”

The Loki Quartet formed just last year and is named after the mythological Norse creature Loki, who changes shapes and affiliations. Zhang says the quartet’s approach to music is similar. “In mythology, Loki would assume many forms,” she says. “Sometimes he is good and sometimes he is evil and sometimes it’s hard to tell. Music has many shades. Sometimes it is darker and more nuanced.” The quartet aims to explore music similarly, interpreting the notes in various ways to inspire different feelings and reactions.

Weeks worked closely with Zhang during her WPI years and marvels that she hadn’t played violin in a decade before picking it up again at WPI. She has plans to work with Weeks later this winter, and with music students to mentor them and give them guidance on music pieces.

But this concert is for the sheer joy of communicating with music. “We are sharing our experiences with [the audience] through the music,” she says. “I hope to bring them something meaningful.”

The concert begins at 3 p.m. and admission is free.

– BY JULIA QUINN-SZCESUIL