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Pietra Quartet wins 2017 Westheimer Fellowship

6 September 2017
Young Sydney musicians set to shine
Four talented musicians at the Conservatorium have been awarded the Gerald Westheimer String Quartet Fellowship which offers private coaching, mentoring and development opportunities.
The Pietra Quartet

The Pietra Quartet (from left, Anna Da Silva Chen, Benjamin Tjoa, Miles Mullin-Chivers and Justin Julian).

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 in 2014 from University of Sydney alumnus Professor Gerald Westheimer AM, a scientist who specialises in the eye and vision who is also a passionate violinist created this prestigious fellowship. Through this gift, string quartets are offered private coaching, mentorship 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 group's violist, Justin Julian, said: "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 Conservatorium the knowledge and enthusiasm for string quartet playing that the program nurtures."

The Pietra Quartet was formed in mid-2016 by four 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 were tutored and attended masterclasses given by Eberhard Feltz, professor of violin and chamber music, Johannes Meissl, professor of chamber music and head of department at Vienna's University of Music and Performing Arts, and cellist Niklas Schmidt.

The Pietra Quartet has performed not only at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music but also Customs House, the Calyx at Sydney’s Royal Botanical Garden, the Conservatorio di Verona, Italy, and the Villa Mosconi Bertani winery in Valpolicella, also in Italy. 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)

Anna Da Silva Chen made her solo orchestral debut at the age of 13 and has since appeared as a soloist with the symphony orchestras of Sydney, Tasmania, Adelaide, Canberra, Willoughby, the Australian Chamber Orchestra Academy, The Metropolitan Orchestra (Sydney), Hopkins Sinfonia (Melbourne), North Sydney, the New South Wales Youth Orchestra, Queensland Youth and Steel City Strings (Illawarra and Shoalhaven, NSW) among others. She has performed alongside the Australia Piano Quartet and toured with renowned ensemble Selby & Friends.

Anna has won the Kendall National Violin Competition, the National Fine Music 102.5 Young Virtuoso Award, the Australian National Youth Concerto Competition and the overall prize at the NSW Secondary Schools Concerto Competition. She was a grand finalist at the ABC Young Performers Awards for three 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 15.

Benjamin Tjoa (Violin)

Benjamin Tjoa has been learning the piano, violin and trumpet since he was eight years old, and has had a hard time picking a favourite. In 2012 he completed a Bachelor of Music (Performance), majoring in trumpet, before finishing a Bachelor of Music Studies in violin under Associate Professor 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 Sydney Symphony Orchestra's Sinfonia, as well as 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 and at the Opera House for concerts dedicated to both American composer Steve Reich and renowned Estonian composer of religious music Arvo Pärt. In 2016, Benjamin was one of the violin fellows as part of the Sydney Symphony Fellowship program and he has gone on to play with the Sydney Symphony Orchestra and the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra.

Justin Julian (Viola)

Justin Julian 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. His 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 in 2014 at the Australian Youth Orchestra's National Music Camp. From the age of 17, Just began working as a casual viola player. He now works with the Sydney Symphony, Melbourne Symphony, Tasmanian Symphony, Canberra Symphony, and Opera Australia Orchestras. He was an Emerging Artist with the Australian Chamber Orchestra in 2017.

Miles Mullin-Chivers (Cello)

Miles Mullin-Chivers is a completing an honours year at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music. He began studying the cello in 2002 with acclaimed teacher Takao Mizushima. In 2010, Miles commenced studies with Susan Blake at the Sydney Conservatorium Rising Stars program on a scholarship. In 2013, he began studying with the Goldner Quartet's Julian Smiles, with whom he is still studying today. He also studied briefly with Fred Sherry of the Juilliard School in New York. In 2016, Miles was fortunate enough to have masterclasses with legendary cellists Li Wei Qin, Philippe 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 he performed at the Canberra International Music Festival.