A member of the Maia Quartet, the violinist has become a musical emissary for the University.
Not often is one inspired to pursue a career in music after watching an advertisement for linoleum flooring. Yet such an event led Tricia Park, first violinist with the University of Iowa Maia String Quartet, to work with legendary mentors and perform on stages around the world.
“I’m 6 years old, and I see this ad, which features a girl playing piano and a boy playing violin,” Park says. “I tell my mother I want to play piano. When she inquired about lessons, there were no openings in piano but there was room for me in violin if I was interested.”
Park, a member of the Maia Quartet since 2005, discovered she had a talent for the stringed instrument, and before long she drew the attention of a teacher from Juilliard during a competition.
“The winner from the contest’s senior division would get the chance to perform in an orchestra,” Park says. “Although I was too young to qualify for senior division, the teacher said I should be the one to receive the honor. It caused a big ruckus.”
It also led Park, along with her mother and brother, from Seattle to New York City to study music intensively. Two years later, just after she turned 13, Park made her orchestra debut with the Baltimore Symphony. Soon after, she entered Juilliard’s precollege program, was accepted, and studied with renowned violin instructor Dorothy DeLay.
“I was one of her last students,” Park says. “I was very fortunate to be among a handful of students to see her once or twice a week.”
Early in Park’s career, she came across another influential musician—Pinchas Zukerman, world-famous violinist and conductor. They shared stages in Europe, Japan, and the United States, resulting in some of Park’s most memorable moments as a soloist.
“He’s probably one of the most gifted and intuitively brilliant musicians I’ve ever met,” she says. “I learned so much just from being around him, from playing with him.”
Since coming to Iowa City, Park and her fellow “Maias”—Elizabeth Oakes, viola; Zoran Jakovcic, violin; and Hannah Holman, cello—serve as emissaries for the University by performing numerous concerts around campus, across the state of Iowa, and throughout the nation and world. They have organized events that honored Scandinavian Nordic artists and raised awareness for health issues such as breast cancer, hearing loss, mental health, and multiple sclerosis.
Park recently performed a faculty/guest recital to raise funds for the Iowa City Public Library, joining Juilliard piano student and Iowa City native Conor Hanick in the Englert Theatre spotlight. They first performed together in Iowa City in 2008.
“I really enjoy playing with Conor as a duo, and the fundraiser was a good thing to do, giving back to the community,” Park says.
The music community at The University of Iowa has had to adapt following the floods of 2008; the Maia Quartet was not unscathed. Flood damage took away its primary performance space, Clapp Recital Hall.
“It’s challenging—we are fortunate to have a big following here, but we need to find spaces to accommodate them,” Park says. “But on the flipside, we’ve always made a point to play nontraditional venues—the Mill, the Java House, Old Capitol Senate Chamber. Those places have become our homes, in a sense.”
The pursuit of excellence in music can be a challenge no matter the performance venue available to the musician. Park spends hours rehearsing daily with the quartet and conducting basic study. In a discipline that has a margin of error measured in millimeters on a fingerboard, extreme focus is required. But working hard to achieve success is nothing new for Park—this is someone who was walking at just 6 months old.
“I was in some kind of hurry to do something with my life,” she says with a smile.
But does Park enjoy doing what she does well?
“I think that when you do something from a very young age, something that you identify with, sometimes it can be painful,” Park says, mentioning that her father lived apart from the rest of the family for several years, maintaining his medical practice in Seattle while she was studying in New York. “I have a certain amount of talent, but it never felt easy. It was always a lot of hard work, dealing with this sort of minutia.
“But I wouldn’t trade this for anything,” she adds. “Music is completely intangible. No one can say why putting music to a film moves an entire audience to cry. I can be analytical about it, give you a theory, but I can’t define the actual connection to your soul. That’s the magical thing about music, and I feel fortunate to live in that world. I’d be a very different person if I didn’t do what I do.”
Story by Christopher Clair; Photo by Kirk Murray
June 8, 2009