'We're all just best friends': The Kodan Quintet on music, friendship and storytelling
Kodan Quintet members Hunter O'Brien, Corbin Krebs, Ian Daugherty, Lauren Anker and Keeheon Nam visited Studio A to perform music of Amy Beach and Valerie Coleman.
The Kodan Quintet is in residence at IPR this week, recording music for an upcoming album, performing concerts and working with Interlochen Arts Academy and TCAPS students.
Kodan's members are:
Hunter O’Brien, flute
Ian Daugherty, oboe
Keeheon Nam, clarinet
Corbin Krebs, bassoon
Lauren Anker, horn
They became an ensemble by luck, assigned together in the fall of 2020 when they were all students at Rice University in Houston.
Although they were randomly assigned together, they formed a unique and lasting bond.
That bond was strengthened, in part, because they came together under the extraordinary circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic.
"We went through so much together in that crazy time," O'Brien said.
Now, these five musicians consider themselves not only colleagues but also close friends. That's why they've continued to work together even though they no longer live in the same city.
"It sounds cheesy, but at this point we're all just best friends," Krebs said. "I couldn't imagine not being in a quintet with them, despite the long-distance relationship that we're in now."
Kodan got its name from the first letter of each member's last name: K(rebs) O('Brien) D(augherty) A(nker) N(Nam).
Only after they created the acronym did they learn that the word "Kodan" also refers to a type of traditional Japanese storytelling, as well as to a polar bear-like character in the game Guild Wars 2.
"Storytelling is huge in our ensemble," O'Brien said, "so it actually worked out in a very beautiful way."
For these five musicians, although they do enjoy playing in formal recital hall settings, they usually prefer more intimate and casual types of concerts.
"We tend to favor performances where we're in a closer space and can see our audience members and connect with them" Krebs said.
The ability to connect with audiences and create a space where they feel comfortable asking questions is important to the members of Kodan.
"We like to get to know our audiences and be available to them as much as possible," O'Brien explained.
During their visit to northern Michigan this week, the five musicians of Kodan are working with student musicians at Interlochen Arts Academy and Traverse City Area Public Schools.
They say students often want to know how they practice and rehearse the music that they're performing, especially when the five of them live far apart.
Plus, according to Krebs, many teenage instrumental musicians haven't been exposed to much chamber music and have a lot of questions about what it's like playing in such a small group.
"The idea of playing such chamber music without a conductor is a new idea to them," Krebs said.
Ultimately, playing together is truly an act of friendship for these five musicians.
"When I look over and see four of my best friends there," O'Brien said, "with all the energy and the excitement and giving it our all - that's the most important part."
Music performed in Studio A
Valerie Coleman, Tzigane
Amy Beach, Pastorale
Kelley DiPasquale engineered the recordings heard in this session.
Alexandra Herryman provided additional support.