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URI’s Undergraduate Honors String Quartet invited to perform in France

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KINGSTON, R.I. -- May 11, 2005 -- The University of Rhode Island’s Undergraduate Honors String Quartet has been invited to perform outside the country again. The quartet previously performed in Belize. This year, it will perform at the music festival, “The Academie de Musique de Chambre rencontres Musicale de Forcalquier,” in Forcalquier, France. The festival runs from July 18 to 29.

Members of the 2005 quartet are sophomore Emily Chen of Kingston, a violinist studying music education and performance, freshman Lydia Lis of Jamestown, a violinist studying music performance, senior Katie Papini of Warwick, a violist studying music education and senior Megan Winters of East Greenwich, a cellist studying music education. John Dempsey, a URI music professor, coaches the group.

“The four musicians are all very talented and have performed advanced and difficult string quartet literature often performed only by professional string quartets,” said Dempsey. “They are dedicated students who are determined to give outstanding performances. They should make a strong showing at the festival.”

Associate Professor of Music Ann Danis made the audition connection for the quartet. “This is a very big honor for our students and for the University as they are the first American students to be accepted into this program,” said Danis, noting that other groups at the festival are from a conservatory in France.

“They will represent themselves and the Department of Music very well,” said Danis. “The quartet will be working with world class musicians and seeing the sights of a beautiful country with a tremendously rich history,” said Danis.

The quartet will perform Beethoven’s quartets at the festival. “We’ve been practicing a lot,” said Chen.

The trip will cost $9,000, with some of the funds coming from the College of Arts and Sciences Richard E. Beaupre Hope and Heritage fund, and from other private donors. To make up any shortage, the quartet may charge admission or ask for donations at its next concert, according to Lis.

During its two weeks in France, the quartet will receive coaching from world-renowned musicians and attend many concerts.

“I’m very excited to see the country,” said Chen. “And to be able to watch professional musicians perform in chamber ensembles.”

“The group has been here a long time. I remember seeing it perform growing up, now I’m in it,” said Lis. “To prepare, I’m getting a French tape to listen to, eating French toast, everything.”

Music runs in the families of the quartet members. Winters’ entire family is involved in music and it has always been a huge part of her life. Chen’s brother plays the saxophone and violin, and her father, Guo-Ming Chen, who is a professor of communication studies at URI, used to play the guitar. “He always said that he wishes he had paid attention,” said Chen.

Papini’s sister played the viola and violin and her father plays the banjo in a Ceili band. Lis’ brothers sing and her father plays the guitar. “ That was very influential to me as a little kid,” she said. “Music has been part of my life for as long as I can remember.”

Is music a natural talent or learned art? “If you have a knack for it, and you’re focused, it will come easier,” answered Chen.

"We've all worked very hard for many years to be trained on our instruments,” replied Winters.

Students must audition to become a quartet member. Competition is rigorous.

“We are delighted to hear of this prestigious invitation,” said Winifred Brownell, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. “The Undergraduate Honors String Quartet has exceptionally talented students who prepare and perform two complete concerts for URI each year, and have appeared around the region in a variety of venues to great acclaim.”

Anyone who would like to contribute to the quartet’s trip, should contact Tom Zorabedian, senior development officer for the College of Arts and Sciences, 401-874-2853 or

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URI Undergraduate Honors String Quartet will perform at a music festival in Forcalquier, France in July. Shown here with their instruments are Emily Chen of Kingston, Megan Winters of East Greenwich, Lydia Lis of Jamestown and Katie Papini of Warwick. They are the first Americans ever invited to the festival.
URI News Bureau Photo by Michael Salerno Photography.