Violinist Maureen Choi is a Michigander making international waves. Her band the Maureen Choi Quartet fuses a blend of styles to create a sound that some describe as "Spanish chamber jazz."
But Choi doesn’t like putting her work into a box. She describes her compositions as a blend of Western classical music, jazz, music from the Spanish diaspora, and Western chamber music concepts.
Both of Choi's parents are musically-inclined. Her mother sang soprano and her father played Spanish guitar. Choi, who now resides in Madrid, says that she’s long been inspired by Spanish music.
“The only word that comes to mind when I describe Spanish music is that it’s just handsome,” Choi said.
She got her first violin when she was just three years old. As an adult, Choi said it took some time for her to figure out whether she really wanted to pursue a career as a professional musician. But after exploring alternative paths, including working at a doctor’s office and a Whole Foods, Choi says she kept coming back to her instrument.
Theia, the Maureen Choi Quartet’s most recent album, was released in March of this year. Choi says the name was inspired by the Titaness Theia in Greek mythology. She's the mother of the moon goddess Selene, the sun god Helios, and Eos, the goddess of the dawn. Theia is also the name astronomers gave to a planet that collided with the earth 4.5 billion years ago, causing the formation of the moon.
Writing the music for this album helped Choi to cope with a particularly rough year in her personal life. She composed the song "September, the First" after losing her first child to a miscarriage. Choi describes the track as “a very simple song” that’s “extremely beautiful” in its sadness.
“This album is a representation of chaos and loss,” Choi said. “But I came out stronger, with more colors and different perspectives, at the end.”
The Maureen Choi Quartet will be performing Wednesday, June 19 at Cliff Bell’s in Detroit; Saturday, June 22 at the Summer Solstice Jazz Festival in East Lansing; and Sunday, June 23 at the Kerrytown Concert House in Ann Arbor.