String quartet brings classical to Pastorius Park concert series


Jazz. Classical. Pop. You name the genre, and Joseph Arnold has played it on a violin. And he’s bringing his latest project, the Joseph Arnold String Quartet, to Pastorius Park on June 21 as part of the Chestnut Hill Community Association’s summer concert series. The presenting sponsor is Temple Health – Chestnut Hill Hospital, and admission is free. The show starts at 7:30 p.m, and it’ll be the band’s debut.

Sort of. 

“I’m playing with a couple of friends I’ve played with many times,” Arnold, who lives in Germantown, told the Local in a phone call. “They’re really good players.”

What makes Arnold’s band different from other classical acts, he said, is that they’re not the type of group that “focuses on technique to the point where it ignores something deeper.”

Unlike many other classically trained artists, Arnold and the rest of his quartet have been trained to listen to each other as they play. 

“Not everybody can do that,” he said. “I don’t like playing with people who [who focus too much on technique]. It’s not that much fun.”

The result is a quartet that feeds off each other and creates an energy onstage that resonates with an audience – something that might draw in many people who don’t typically listen to much classical music. 

“A lot of times what makes classical music boring is that the performers themselves are bored,” he said. “What we bring to the music is a sense of liveliness since we’re only playing music we enjoy playing.”

Arnold’s Theory?

“If we enjoy ourselves, the audience will enjoy themselves,” he said. 

Those who attend the show can expect a setlist full of mostly classical music but can expect some familiar pop songs as well, like “Bohemian Rhapsody” and Arnold’s rendition of the theme song from Rocky

When not performing, Arnold can be found teaching violin in his studio. He’s particularly passionate about the use of The Alexander Technique when teaching. It’s a technique, Arnold told the Local, that teaches violinists to relieve tension and relax while they play. It’s something Arnold first learned of while dealing with chronic pain he developed studying violin at Carnegie Mellon. The now-defunct Philadelphia School for the Alexander Technique, which he graduated from in 2012, is what brought him to the city. Not only has it fixed his chronic pain issues, Arnold said, but it’s improved his playing.

“This really amazing thing would happen,” Arnold said about his experience teaching the technique to his students. “The music would suddenly take on this luminous quality…The sound quality became more resonant, their technique became more fluid and the musicality more expressive. It was like undoing a knot or unkinking a hose.”

Arnold will be back at Pastorius Park on July 5 with his other band, The Hot Club of Philadelphia, a jazz band. Jazz, which he studied in college, is his main musical love. But he’s hoping his newly formed string quartet will give him the opportunity to scratch his classical music itch.

“I mostly play jazz,” he said. “But I still love classical music.”