Artists-in-residence left dangling by a string

Photo courtesy of the Department of Music

Northern Kentucky University’s resident string quartet, the Azmari String Quartet, will be cut from the music department July 1.

The quartet, composed of Christina and Rebecca Merblum, MinTze Wu, and Meghan Casper, was shocked to find out its second year at NKU is also its last.

“We have nothing to tell our students,” said Christina Merblum, the quartet’s violinist.

The Patricia A. Corbett grant that was funding the quartet was “for a limited number of years and those funds have been exhausted,” said Dr. Vance Wolverton, chair of the music department.

The College of Arts and Sciences continued to fund the quartet, but can no longer afford it, “resulting in the non-renewal of the Azmari’s contract.”

However, the members of the quartet feel that “they (the music department) did not exhaust every option,” said Rebecca, the quartet’s cellist. She said that the quartet has contacted some of their previous contributors who stated that they hadn’t been contacted by the department.

In regards to the future of the strings program, Wolverton said “the department of music remains firmly committed to continued instruction in strings through the Patricia A. Corbett Strings Program at NKU.”

The quartet members, who make up the majority of the strings program, don’t see how the students in the program will be able to continue. “The department said that they are trying to hire one adjunct faculty member,” Christina said, “which is completely insufficient.”

With the deadline to apply for most music programs having already passed on Dec. 1, the quartet’s students fell they are left without many options.

“The students are extremely upset,” Christina said. “We are working with each student on an individual basis to develop their personal plan.”

Cutting the quartet means there will no longer be a string quartet-in-residence in the region, which according to Rebecca, is a major loss for the university.

With a quartet-in-residence, “you have an elevated status in your department,” she said.

Though the future of the strings program is uncertain, according to Wolverton, “I am confident that we will find alternative ways to serve the needs of our students and the NKU community.”

As far as the Azmari String Quartet is concerned, its future is still promising. “We are intact as an ensemble,” Christina said. “We still have our performing career and we have engagements throughout the summer.” Also, she said that the quartet has tremendous support in the community.