Viola performance graduate Lauren Spaulding (MM ’14) this month joined the acclaimed and diverse Thalea String Quartet, Doctoral Fellowship String Quartet at the University of Maryland.
Spaulding, originally from Texas, was first introduced to the quartet when members of the ensemble started following her on Instagram @MonochromeViola … which soon led to her audition.
“I started this ridiculous blog and called it my absurd practice blog,” says Spaulding, who started music late in life after exploring careers in neuroscience and dental health. “It helped me combat insecurities and confront feelings we have as musicians that we aren’t good enough. It gave me the freedom to be real.
“The thing that inspires me most is expressing my feelings and experiences without using words.”
Often exploring the works of diverse composers and non-Western influences, the Thalea String Quartet—from the Greek name Thaleia (“to flourish, to blossom”)—is committed to shaping and contributing to the future of the string quartet repertoire. Specifically, the ensemble has premiered dozens of new works and collaborated on new commissions with such composers as Anthony Green, Paola Prestini, Tanner Porter and Akshaya Avril Tucker. Quartet members intentionally incorporate into their work awareness of the Black experience in classical music, “coming out” in classical music, mental health, learning disabilities and non-violent communication. They’re also known to collaborate and perform alongside poets, writers and other artists.
This perspective on the Thalea String Quartet—shared by violinist David Harrington of the veteran Kronos Quartet—sums up the foursome’s broad appeal: “Just when I thought our society was falling apart, along came the Thalea Quartet’s vivid, expansive performances! Their beautifully textured sound is enveloped by thrilling individual brilliance and highlighted by a rare, magnetic quartet sense emanating from every note they play. Hearing the Thalea Quartet makes me feel very happy and gives me hope for the future. They are great ambassadors for music.”
Beyond her exciting new gig as a member of the Thalea String Quartet, Spaulding—who’s also a member of Meredith Monk’s contemporary performance ensemble, co-founder of the Tallā Rouge Viola Duo, a regular with the Colorado Symphony, principal violist and festival artist with the Colorado MahlerFest and an award-winning studio recording artist—energetically advocates for composers of all genders, identities, ethnicities and backgrounds.
Among her efforts, she works with the Boston-based Music for Food initiative where musicians donate their time and help raise money to address food insecurity.