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Thalea String Quartet Awarded Graduate Fellowship

July 10, 2020 School of Music | College of Arts and Humanities

 The Thalea String Quartet with their instruments.

Graduate string quartet plans to ‘explore the role of chamber music in the new and shifting landscape of the performing arts.’

The University of Maryland School of Music (SOM) has awarded the musicians of the Thalea String Quartet with its Graduate String Quartet Fellowship, to begin in Fall 2020. 

Each member of the quartet will receive tuition remission for a doctoral degree in music, a stipend, intensive chamber music study, professional development and performance opportunities. Given that the COVID-19 pandemic has canceled in-person music performances around the world, the Thalea String Quartet plans to focus on developing online educational initiatives, commissioning projects and giving virtual performances.

“We plan to explore the role of chamber music in the new and shifting landscape of the performing arts,” the group said in a statement.

 The Thalea String Quartet with their instruments.

The Thalea String Quartet was formed in 2014 at the Zephyr International Chamber Music Festival in Courmayeur, Italy, and features Christopher Whitley and Kumiko Sakamoto on violin, Luis Bellorín on viola and Titilayo Ayangade on cello. The quartet aims to connect with audiences on a musical, emotional and personal level—from first time listeners to string quartet aficionados. The ensemble is especially dedicated to supporting and amplifying works by female composers and composers of color. They plan to continue performing and recording music by esteemed Black composers Florence Price and William Grant Still.

Top prize winners at both the 2018 Fischoff National Chamber Music Competition and the 2018 Chamber Music Yellow Springs Competition, the quartet has performed recitals across Europe, China, the United States and Canada, and has appeared at notable venues including the Kennedy Center, Massey Hall and Weill Hall at Carnegie Hall. The ensemble was the first quartet-in-residence at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music from 2015–17 and just finished a fellowship as the Young Professional String Quartet at the Butler School of Music at the University of Texas at Austin.

The musicians are also dedicated educators and recently finished a pilot project during a 2019–20 residency at the Caramoor Center for Music and Arts in Westchester County, New York, to develop an innovative online program for young string students featuring pre-recorded video presentations and interactive learning sessions.

 The Thalea String Quartet.

“We are thrilled that the Thalea String Quartet will be joining us,” said David Salness, Director of Chamber Music Activities at SOM. “Not only is Thalea a top-flight performing ensemble, the group impressed us with its demonstrated commitment to education and serving the greater community through the social messaging of its music.”

During the upcoming fellowship, the quartet will continue to create a virtual music curriculum for student musicians across the country.

“We are so thrilled to be joining the UMD community,” said the Thalea String Quartet. “As we begin this new chapter in our career, we hope to demonstrate how the power of music can inspire growth, change and innovation in the Maryland community and beyond.”

More information about the Thalea String Quartet can be found at

Photography by Titilayo Ayangade
Video by the Thalea String Quartet