Artist Interviews 2022
By Julia Siedenburg
Photo: Anna Azarov
Orchid Quartet is four badass women who have been serenading people by playing music on stages all over the world. Molly, Michelle, Kiara, and Leah, all born in the States, studied, practiced, and worked their way up to now being a true power ensemble. The group formed a strong bond while playing for Yoshiki Classical tour and not too long after brought Orchid Quartet to life.
Besides playing with famous bands, film composers and symphonies, Orchid Quartet is also performing regularly at the Candlelight Concerts, and if you have not been to one of those you are truly missing something. This all-female ensemble entrances you with their beautiful music playing - transporting you into a truly magical world.
But enough said. Do yourself a favor, dear reader, and learn more about these super-talented women from this interview and then, if you can, go and view one of their shows. I am a big fan of their work and I am sure you will be too. I promise you wont regret it! Enjoy.
Photo: Emil Ravelo
First off, tell us a bit about yourselves. Where are you from, which instruments are being played by who and what did you all do before becoming the Orchid Quartet?
Leah: The members of Orchid Quartet are Molly Rogers on violin, Michelle Shin on violin, Kiara Ana on viola, and Leah Metzler on cello. Molly was born and raised in Frankfort, Kentucky.
She studied at the preparatory department at the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music and continued at the Cleveland Institute of Music.
Molly has been a soloist for Hans Zimmer’s band since 2017, and she is also the violin & viola soloist and additional vocalist for Ramin Djawadi and his Game of Thrones Live show.
She was the violinist for Sting’s touring musical “The Last Ship” and has also performed on select tour dates with Adele and Portugal.
Michelle was raised in New York and started her education in Juilliard Pre-College. She earned her Bachelor’s degree at Peabody Institute of the Johns Hopkins University,
and obtained her Master’s degree as well as Artist Diploma in Colburn Conservatory. As a music educator, Ms. Shin enjoys watching her students blossom into young artists.
She can be seen performing frequently with the Pasadena Symphony and recording in the studios.
Kiara hails from the Happy Valley of western Massachusetts. She studied with Kathryn Lockwood at UMass Amherst through high school and received her Bachelor of Music in Viola Performance from Boston
University under the tutelage of Michelle LaCourse. Kiara is so grateful for the combination of live performance and studio recording that fills her work-life and soul with music and connection.
Leah was born to a violin maker father and violinist mother, and was practically raised in their family violin shop near Los Angeles. She was fortunate enough to discover her passion for the cello at the age of four.
Leah is now an active performer and recording artist whose work can be heard on the scores of numerous movies, television series, albums, and commercials.
Leah holds her B.M. in cello performance from the Oberlin Conservatory of Music and her M.M. in cello performance from the San Francisco Conservatory of Music.
Each player in Orchid Quartet still has her own active freelance career outside of the quartet including live performances and recording sessions. Molly is currently touring with Hans Zimmer while Kiara, Michelle, and Leah tour with Panic! At the Disco.
Photo: Anna Azarov
Where did you all meet and decide to become the Orchid Quartet?
Kiara: We are all freelance string players in LA. The founding members of Orchid Quartet became very close friends in 2014 while playing with Japanese glam-rock sensation, Yoshiki, for his Yoshiki Classical tour. Our friendship evolved into Orchid Quartet in 2016 and we’ve been creating and working together since, alongside our freelance careers. At the beginning of 2022 we had a violin opening in the quartet and were fortunate enough to connect and start playing with Michelle. We have spent this year getting to know each other, touring, traveling and constantly playing music together. It’s been really special and we’re very excited for the next chapters of Orchid Quartet.
What is the inspiration behind the name?
Molly: When we formed our group back in 2016 we knew we wanted something powerful and feminine to represent us. It was a pretty effortless choice when the name Orchid Quartet was tossed into the idea ring; our former 2nd violinist’s mom’s favorite flower was an orchid, so chose the name in tribute to her. Orchids are known as symbols of both love and strength. Those are what we strive to have as symbiotic ideals in our music and professionalism!
You all have traveled around the world giving concerts. What was a specifically great experience you had giving a performance and where was it?
Kiara: I’ll give you two, because one is too hard! Just last month we traveled to Washington, DC to premiere a new piece, written by a percussionist and a saxophonist for those two instruments with string quartet. We put the music part together in just two days and the performance was supported by a beautiful art film and incredible projections as well. It was a powerful and wonderful experience of true art expression and we were so honored to be invited to be a part of the premiere.
This past year we’ve also had the unique and incredible experience of playing with Smokey Robinson for some of his west coast tour dates and at Stagecoach. Being in the presence of such a powerful musical legacy and his wonderful band is a dream come true. From sharing meals together to creating live music magic onstage, each moment is treasured and intentional, and we really love to exist in creative spaces that feel that good.
Miklos Rozsa conducts a scoring session at Universal Studios Soundstage 10 in the 1940s – source: http://musicbehindthescreen.blogspot.com
Being an all female quartet must be empowering and inspiring for a lot of women wanting to become musicians and join a group may it be quartet or orchestra. How hard is it to establish yourself as a female quartet and what kind of obstacles did you all have to overcome?
Molly: It has meant a lot over the years to hear from women of all ages who are excited to see us perform, even those who aren’t in our industry. We understand the importance of representation and we really strive to be part of that powerful presence in our industry. We also hire other women whenever we’re in the position to, and try to cultivate a space of support and encouragement. It’s difficult enough simply trying to establish yourself as a classical musician these days; so many aren’t introduced to it for a number of different reasons. So we’ve found that supporting and championing one another is the best way to find success.
Overall, what are some of the difficulties women have to face in the music industry?
Leah: If you think about it, it wasn’t until quite recently that women started working in the studios for orchestral recording sessions alongside men. There are many photographs of old Hollywood film scoring sessions from the 30s, 40s, and 50s (and even as late as the 80s) that depict a sea of men in suits without a single woman in sight. Now that women are working regularly in the studios, it is easy to forget that it really wasn’t that long ago that they were first welcome to be in such spaces. Women have been conditioned to be less assertive, to be polite and gracious, to not ruffle feathers, and to expect fewer leadership roles. Still to this day, there are offensive ideas floating around that women are not as competent on their instruments despite equal training and pedagogy as their male counterparts. In Orchid Quartet’s own gigging lives, we still hear unfair assumptions that women were only hired for this gig or that because of their looks rather than for their musical competency. We’ve all experienced patronizing comments underestimating our abilities and expertise. The best way to combat these antiquated notions is to keep showing up in these spaces with our heads held high and let our mastery of our instruments do all the speaking.
Photo: Emil Ravelo
How often do you get together and practice per week?
Michelle: We perform together quite often, so three times a week seems to be a fair average! We come prepared with our own parts, and with the other members having played together for years, it is a smooth experience getting new repertoire under our belt. We gain equal insight from the real-time performance as we do in our rehearsal spaces, so you could count all of our time together with our instruments as practice for everything that follows!
Photo: Emil Ravelo
I experienced your beautiful playing at one of the Candlelight concerts. That specific one was Hans Zimmer's most known film music pieces. Is there one of those songs that you all enjoy playing the most or does each one of you have their favorite song to play?
Michelle: Hans Zimmer’s music is so dear to us, especially because our first violinist plays as a soloist on his tours! When there is a personal connection like that, we all feel an extra sense of duty to do justice to the quartet arrangements of his music! Some of our favorites include the themes from Pearl Harbor, Lion King, and Dark Knight. However, as we joke in our show, we all know that Wonder Woman is the superior superhero, so we’d like to give that theme a special shout-out!
Next to Hans Zimmer’s best compositions, you also play other music for the Candlelight Concerts. Please tell us which ones they are and how activally were you able to be involved in the type of music/artist and the songs that you play ?
Molly: We’re fortunate to play a myriad of different programs for Candlelight Concerts! It started on a deeply classical level, with programs like Vivaldi’s Four Seasons, which we still perform today. Then slowly as the concerts gained in popularity and opened in more cities, we started playing more of a variety of programs, from additional classical to film music to pop covers. Nights dedicated to Hollywood Epics, Taylor Swift, Beyoncé, Adele, BTS, or all 90s have become some of the most fun to perform. At this point we’re usually asked by the Fever/Candlelight team to do a specific tribute night and they can help provide sheet music for us. But we ultimately get to use our own arrangements and song choices, if we wish!
Photo: Anna Azarov
Besides more Candlelight Concerts, what is planned for you for the future?
Kiara: Candlelight Concerts have been such an unexpected and beautiful experience for Orchid Quartet. These concerts have expanded our reach, introduced us to many new friends and fans and have opened so many future work opportunities for us as well. We feel so fortunate for the places and spaces that music and our work in Orchid Quartet have brought us and we look forward to much more! Two big tennants of our work are live performance and recording. We look forward to continuing to grow as musicians together, recording some of our own music, making more music videos, continuing to record for film and tv and playing more with other artists and supporting their visions as we continue to build our own. Being musicians in Los Angeles means that each day is different then the last and that’s what makes it all so much fun. As we move into this next chapter, we hope that you’ll join us on the journey! Follow us @OrchidQuartet and check out our website for all things OQ! www.OrchidQuartet.com