OWATONNA — The Lux String Quartet, a Twin Cities-based ensemble, will bring its dynamic style of music to the Owatonna Arts Center Sunday afternoon for the second time in the past couple of years.
“We had a great time” in 2016, said Sam Rudy, a founding member of the quartet. Rudy will be joined Sunday by Erika Blanco, first violin, cellist Eric Graf, and Hillary Kingsley, the group’s interim viola player who has stepped in for original member Benjamin Davis.
“What’s so wonderful about this group is the way four individuals function as one musically,” said Silvan Durben, creative director of the OAC. “They are one with the music and each other.”
Though Graf is the only native Minnesotan, all members of the ensemble have conducted at least part of their musical education at the University of Minnesota. Rudy is originally from Colorado Springs, Kinsley is from Atlanta, and Blanco is from Charleston, S.C.
“This has been an especially busy season for us,” with concerts all over the Midwest and Canada, Rudy said. “We do have a lot of Type A personalities who go out and get things done,” and the group follows the mantra of “just play everywhere you can all the time” in order to build up a following among music fans.
Much like attending a live sporting event, there’s no substitute for a live concert, Durben said. “You’re in the moment, and the musicians are in the moment.”
All members of the quartet began playing their instruments at young ages, with Rudy starting at 8, the musician said. “It was actually the perfect age, because I was grown up enough to understand its importance and practice, but young enough that success nurtured” his passion.
Violin became his choice of instrument when he witnessed a street musician playing with aplomb as a youth, and after his freshman year of high school, he attended a music camp with “a very inspiring teacher and very inspiring experiences,” he said. He also had supportive parents, which is critical, and found work with an orchestra in Iowa right out of college — three members of the Lux String Quartet, including Rudy, currently play with the Quad Cities Orchestra.
Rudy has his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in performance and music theory from Minnesota, where he was a pupil of Mark Bjork. He’s also a teacher, maintaining an active studio of young violinists in the Twin Cities.
“The transition to the real world from college is tricky,” but fortunately Rudy was quickly accepted into multiple Midwestern orchestras, he said. The first year of the Lux String Quarter in 2013 was “a courtship period where we were figuring out if we should be in a quartet together,” but they united quickly.
They’re currently working with Minnesota Public Radio, visiting schools to discuss music and collaboration with students, he said. “We talk a lot about teamwork,” and how valuable that is, whether in a musical quartet or simply playing with friends at recess.
On Sunday, the group will open with “a few artfully-arranged Danish folk pieces that are easy to listen to,” he said. Those works present a chance for the group to “warm up,” but also “draw in” the audience.
Rudy and his fellow musicians will also discuss compositions with their audience, he said. They’re not the type of ensemble who “just plays and leaves.”
“If you get a chance to see a live performance of (this group), you should do so, because you’ll understand the music (better),” Durben said. “They bring music to everyone.”
The concert will conclude with the work of Jean Sibelius, considered Finland’s finest composer, Rudy said. Naturally, there’s a “palpable Finnish spirit,” and the piece they’ve selected is “beautiful, romantic, and expressive.”
No ticket is required for Sunday’s performance, which is scheduled to begin at 2 p.m.