The Stanford-based ensemble tours Australia with oboist Diana Doherty.

Stanford University feels too good to be real. The weather is idyllic, the grass is green, the students are shiny and diligent, and the wonders of San Francisco are just a train-ride away.

So it is a relief to find the St Lawrence String Quartet in a rehearsal room much like any other, in a building that could be a music institution anywhere. There are concert posters on the walls, and a bulky grand piano hunches in the corner. A friendly clutter of music stands, instrument cases, and scores keeps the space busy.

A closer look at what the quartet actually does at Stanford makes the ordinary rehearsal room look a little less ordinary. The players have given workshops at the business school and performed on iPads; they engage in debates and collaborate with scientists.

Cellist Christopher Constanza explains, “In terms of teaching, our actual hour requirement is fairly low because of our touring schedule. But we do a lot of other things besides teaching at the university, some of them official, some of them not as official.”

Violinist Geoff Nutall gives a quick insight into his schedule...