Monday, August 7, 2023





Beyond the soundproof walls of the Voxman Music Building’s rehearsal rooms resides a diversity of musical talent from across the globe. Young performers, prodigies, and educators unite in melodic harmony and shared discipline at the University of Iowa School of Music. To find such exemplary musicianship, look no further than the Kaydenn String Quartet.


Kaydenn String Quartet
The Kaydenn String Quartet was founded in Iowa's String Quartet Residency Program.

Formed in January 2022 as a collaboration of mutual friends and classmates, the quartet follows the mentorship of Elizabeth Oakes, Director of the String Quartet Residency Program. Balancing doctoral course work with about six hours of rehearsal per week, they’ve performed for community outreach events and worked closely with Arts Share, which connects music and community. Recent performances include a Lunar New Year celebration, cultural events at the public library, senior living centers, and children’s concerts. This summer, they performed at the Green Lake Festival of Music in Green Lake, WI, and became the first quartet-in-residency with the Knox-Galesburg Symphony in Galesburg, IL.


The Kaydenn String Quartet consists of first violinist Junhong Zhou of China; second violinist ShengHo Wang of Taiwan; violist Dominique Archambeau of Chicago, IL; and cellist Adrián Gómez Hernández of Spain. The diversity of mother tongues has made for challenging yet immersive discussions and collaboration between the four, particularly regarding musical phrasing.

“There are specific moments when we have very conflicted ideas, and we can spend 30, 45 minutes discussing 10 seconds of music,” Gómez Hernández admits with a laugh.

The cellist was recently appointed the new Orchestra Manager for the Missouri Symphony, located in Columbia, MO, where he previously served as personnel manager. He also served a one-year teaching assistantship as Iowa’s orchestra librarian and a research assistantship as cellist with the Center for New Music.

Language hurdles notwithstanding, one of the ensemble’s most recent accomplishments—thanks to the Chamber Music Residency Program—saw them perform as an octet with the Cavani String Quartet this spring.

“We were super grateful of the opportunity, and it was very inspiring to play with them,” Gómez Hernández recalls.

Propelling a future in music


The Kaydenn String Quartet and its time at the School of Music has offered each of the students diverse skills and experiences to facilitate their futures in musical performance and academia.

“I feel like the school pushed me to learn different programs because I was not familiar with Center for New Music, especially contemporary music,” explains ShengHo Wang, who is primarily trained in classical music. “So I have chances to learn that, and I have many opportunities to meet with composers—classical music legends—so I’m very glad to meet them in person.”

Wang graduated in 2015 from the National Taiwan University with a degree in Music, has been a graduate assistant at University of South Dakota since January 2018, and has served as concertmaster of the USD Symphony since August 2016. His teaching experience includes a five-student private studio in Vermillion since 2016. In April 2018, Wang was featured as a soloist and as a winner of the USD Concerto Competition.

Elizabeth Oakes instructs the Kaydenn String Quartet
Elizabeth Oakes, Director of the String Quartet Residency Program, instructs the Kaydenn String Quartet during a rehearsal (photo by Cale Stelken).

Violinist Junhong Zhou’s favorite part of the Chamber Residency Program is how it exposes him to a diversity of talented fellow string quartets.

“That’s a very good opportunity for me to watch, to think about how I can improve and how I can make a beautiful sound from their inspiration,” he explains.


Zhou’s postdoc research assistantship also provides the opportunity to collaborate with other music students in the Center for New Music and expand beyond his classical background.

“That enriches my experience, enriches my musical journey in this school,” he cites.

Having picked up the violin at age four, Junhong went on to receive professional training at the Sichuan Conservatory of Music Middle School, Shanghai Conservatory of Music, and University of Central Oklahoma. In 2016, he attended the Hong Kong International String Competition, where he won the Excellent Performer Award. He served as a violin player in the Guiyang Symphony Orchestra from 2013 to 2017.

In addition to being a teaching assistant, violist Dominique Archambeau has found her secondary area of study in chamber music entrepreneurship highly beneficial.

Kaydenn String Quartet
Left to right: violist Dominique Archambeau of the U.S., cellist Adrián Gómez Hernández of Spain, first violinist Junhong Zhou of China, and second violinist ShengHo Wang of Taiwan.

“This has given me a lot of real-world experience,” she insists. “I’ve never really found a program like that before, so it’s really cool because that gave me practical experience for making different projects, learning how to make budgets, learning financial sides of arts administration, which isn’t taught much, from my experience.”

The young violist began her musical training at Chicago’s New Music School and played in the Chicago Youth Symphony Orchestras. In 2014, she was a featured artist in the Grant Park Music Festival’s Young Artist Showcase and the next year performed as a soloist with the Gabrovo Chamber Orchestra (Bulgaria). This year, Archambeau has served as Artist-in-Residence with the Southeast Iowa Symphony Orchestra. She serves as the viola teaching assistant at Iowa and is studying with Professor Christine Rutledge. Additionally, she was on faculty at Kirkwood Community College and the Preucil School of Music.

Archambeau also cites the vital efforts of residency director Elizabeth Oakes during her time at Iowa.

“She’s helped us make our projects come to fruition. We’ve organized our own chamber tours here; we’ve gone beyond university-sponsored chamber tours,” she notes. “It’s been really fun and gave me really good knowledge.”

“Elizabeth Oakes has brought in world-class musicians, and we’ve been able to work with them and be super inspired by them,” adds Gómez Hernández. “It’s been a treat.”

Elizabeth Oakes observes a rehearsal by the Kaydenn String Quartet
Elizabeth Oakes observes the Kaydenn String Quartet during a rehearsal (photo by Cale Stelken).

The cellist has also found a teaching assistantship as Iowa’s orchestra librarian critical to his career.

“That opened up a lot of opportunities to diversify my role not only as an instrumentalist but also other parts of the music world that are not that well taught in normal academia,” he explains. “Being part of a music ensemble helped me build very strong connections and network with leading composers, and I have premiered some of their music as well as going to conferences with them.”

“It is always a privilege to have the opportunity to work with a committed quartet who is just beginning its professional journey,” says Oakes. “I have been so proud of the Kaydenn Quartet as the members delved into all aspects of what it means to be a serious performing ensemble. Each member has brought so much talent and artistry to the group; I feel lucky to have been a part of this stage of their career.”

According to Archambeau, the collaborative nature of the Kaydenn String Quartet has brought together all the right elements for an enriching, impactful experience at the School of Music.

“Playing in the quartet has been, honestly, one of the highlights of my time at Iowa because it’s not only a way to have a good creative outlet, but it’s also a great opportunity to play with friends and work with friends,” she insists. “This is a great way to build our musicianship and also doing it while having fun.”

Follow the Kaydenn String Quartet on Instagram.