Violinist Amelia Chan came to West Virginia after having lived in much larger cities, including her native Hong Kong and New York.
While she acknowledges it was an adjustment at first, Chan now loves being able to make her living as a musician in a relatively small city.
Turns out the pace here suits her personality much more, anyway.
"I was really, really sick of New York," she recalled. "The noise was especially getting to me. And the music world there was starting to get to me . . . everyone was trying to one-up each other."
Chan came to Charleston in 2003, and after a brief bump in the road over her working visa, she settled into her job here. Serving as concertmaster and violinist for the West Virginia Symphony and a one-fourth part of the Montclaire String Quartet keeps her just busy enough, Chan said.
"During the season, I don't do a lot of other things," she said, though she takes on some freelance work during the off season and teaches during the school year at West Virginia State University.
"I really like to have my own time to practice," she said. "Sometimes in the summers, I would do some music festivals, but I still did fewer than other people because I like my own time."
Chan noted the two-and-a-half-hour symphony rehearsals require a lot of time sitting without moving.
"That is really rough on my back," she said. "You're always positioned the same way.
"And during the year, because of the pressures of having to meet repertoire requirements, you can't always practice. And practice is about getting rid of bad habits and not letting bad habits creep in. So in the summertime, I need that time off for my body."
Summer also gives her a block of time to visit her family, most of whom still live in Hong Kong.
Chan heads into the new seasons of both the symphony, which opened last month, and the Montclaire String Quartet, which opens Sunday, rested, recharged and prepared.
She joins fellow quartet members Anton Shelepov on violin and husband and wife Bernard Di Gregorio on viola and Andrea Di Gregorio on cello for a program that includes Mozart, Brahms and Austrian composer Anton Webern's "Langsamer Satz," which Chan calls "lush and romantic" and an unexpected sound from the composer's modern compositions.
The current lineup for the quartet has been in place about four years, and Chan said they operate much like a marriage. They understand each others' nuances. They discuss. Sometimes, they disagree, but always kindly.