Sydney Conservatorium of Music is thrilled to announce the Pietra Quartet as the 2017 winners of the Gerald Westheimer String Quartet Fellowship Program. A generous donation was received in 2014 from University of Sydney alumnus Professor Gerald Westheimer AM, an Australian vision scientist and passionate violinist, to create this prestigious Fellowship, where string quartets have the opportunity to receive private coaching, mentorships and developmental opportunities at the Conservatorium. Professor Westheimer expressed his delight “that these talented and accomplished young Sydney musicians decided to devote themselves to the single most rewarding ensemble in all of classical music, the string quartet”.
“The Pietra Quartet receives the generous Westheimer Fellowship with heartfelt thanks and much excitement. We have been offered not only the opportunity to learn and grow as a quartet, but a chance to bring back to the Sydney Conservatorium the knowledge and enthusiasm for string quartet playing that the program nurtures,” said the group’s violist, Justin Julian.
The Pietra Quartet was formed in mid-2016 by four Sydney Conservatorium students. The quartet has worked under the tutelage of Associate Professor Alice Waten and the Goldner Quartet’s Julian Smiles. In 2017, the group travelled to Verona, Italy to participate in the annual Estivo Summer Chamber Music School, where they received tuition and masterclasses from Eberhard Feltz, Johannes Meissl and Niklas Schmidt. The Pietra Quartet has performed at a wide range of venues, including Sydney Conservatorium of Music, Customs House, the Calyx at Sydney’s Royal Botanical Garden, the Conservatorio di Verona and the Villa Mosconi Bertani winery in Valpolicella. The quartet has also performed in masterclasses for Takács Quartet violinist Edward Dusinberre and Adelaide Symphony Orchestra cellist Janis Laurs.
Anna Da Silva Chen (violin) made her solo orchestral debut at the age of thirteen, and has since appeared as a soloist with the symphony orchestras of Sydney, Tasmanian, Adelaide, Canberra, Willoughby, ACO Academy, The Metropolitan, Hopkins Sinfonia, North Sydney, Ku-ring-gai, New South Wales Youth, Queensland Youth and Steel City Strings among others. She has performed alongside the Australia Piano Quartet and toured Australia with renowned ensemble Selby & Friends. Anna has won the Kendall National Violin Competition, National Fine Music 102.5 Young Virtuoso Award, Australian National Youth Concerto Competition and overall prize at the NSW Secondary Schools Concerto Competition. She was a grand finalist at the ABC Young Performers Awards string finalist for the three preceding years, won prizes at the Gisborne International Music Competition, and was selected as a junior semi-finalist at the Yehudi Menuhin International Violin Competition when she was fifteen.
Benjamin Tjoa (violin) has been learning the piano, violin and trumpet since he was 8 years old, and has had a hard time picking a favourite. In 2012 he completed his Bachelor of Music (Performance), majoring in trumpet, before finishing his Bachelor of Music Studies in violin under Alice Waten in 2015 at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music. As a violinist, Benjamin has been a member of the Australian Youth Orchestra and the SSO Sinfonia, as well as being the concertmaster of the Sydney Youth Orchestra and the Sydney Conservatorium of Music Chamber Orchestra. He has performed as a soloist with the Sydney Youth Orchestra, as well as at the Opera House for concerts dedicated to both Steve Reich and Arvo Pärt. In 2016, Benjamin was one of the violin fellows as part of the Sydney Symphony Fellowship program and has subsequently gone on to play with the Sydney Symphony and Adelaide Symphony Orchestras.
Justin Julian (viola) studies viola with Roger Benedict at Sydney Conservatorium of Music on a full scholarship. After some years on the violin, Justin moved to the viola at the age of 13. Justin’s orchestral career was kick-started when, at age 15, he was appointed Associate Principal Viola of the Australian Youth Orchestra and Principal Viola of the Alexander Orchestra at AYO National Music Camp in 2014. From the age of 17, he began working as a casual viola player. Justin now works with the Sydney Symphony, Melbourne Symphony, Tasmanian Symphony, Canberra Symphony, and Opera Australia Orchestras. He is also an Emerging Artist with the Australian Chamber Orchestra in 2017.
Miles Mullin-Chivers (cello) is a fourth year Sydney Conservatorium of Music student, currently completing honours. He began studying the cello in 2002 with Takao Mizushima. In 2010, Miles commenced his studies with Susan Blake at the Sydney Conservatorium Rising Stars program on a scholarship. In 2013, he began studying with Julian Smiles, with whom he is still studying today. He also studied briefly with Fred Sherry (Julliard, New York). In 2016, Miles was fortunate enough to have masterclasses with legendary Li Wei Quin, Phillip Muller, Richard Aaron and Wolfgang Emanuel Schmidt. Miles has twice travelled to Verona, Italy to take part in the Estivo Chamber Music Festival and in 2017 performed at the Canberra International Music Festival.