An IAP class in four-part harmony
March 5, 2021
Just a few months shy of February graduation during the pandemic and the start of a fifth-year master’s program, senior Jeana Choi realized that she had never taught a class during the January Independent Activities Period (IAP). “I thought, wow, I can’t end my college experience like this,” she says. An electrical engineering and computer science major who minored in music, Choi, a violinist, became excited by the prospect of teaching about something she loved: classical music.
The result of this moment of inspiration? “Classical Music in the Social Media Generation,” an IAP class featuring renowned performers Yo-Yo Ma, Hilary Hahn, Drew Forde, and Nahre Sol. Notable for their use of digital platforms to communicate directly with fans, they all make their music accessible to casual listeners and build new audiences. “They are literally world experts on the topic of connecting with people virtually,” says Choi.
She quickly identified collaborators for this venture: members of her string quartet, a group that had worked together nearly three years within MIT’s Chamber Music Society: violinist and computer science graduate student Jeff Chow ’20; violist Jiaxing Liu, a fourth-year majoring in biology and minoring in music and brain and cognitive sciences; and cellist and biological engineering postdoc Alex Wang PhD ’20.
“Instead of taking an IAP class, I thought it would be cool to be on the other side,” says Liu. “And this also seemed like a great way to give back to the entire MIT community.”
It had been difficult for the group during the previous spring, when the pandemic drove them off campus, and in the fall, when they were forced to play outside in MIT courtyards. Some members of the quartet would soon be completing their studies and departing MIT. “We wanted to end on a better note, and teaching this IAP class felt like a way to show appreciation to the arts departments of MIT, and to each other,” says Wang.