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2023 Prizewinners

Senior Division

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Max Ball, violin (Markham, Ontario)
Sarah Ma, violin (Greenville, SC)
Jasper de Boor, viola (Dripping Springs, TX)
Drew Dansby, cello (Garland, TX) 

The Poiesis Quartet was founded in Oberlin, OH during Oberlin Conservatory’s Advanced String Quartet program. In January 2023, the quartet completed an international tour in Uruguay with artistic residencies in Punta del Diablo and Punta del Este’s premiere concert series, “Conciertos del Este”. Performances included the world premiere of Alejandro Melo’s’ composition “Elegy” which was dedicated to the quartet. This year, they were selected as finalists in the St. Paul String Quartet Competition and quarterfinalists in the Fischoff National Chamber Music Competition and are the recipients of Fischoff’s Lift Every Voice Prize. They are also grateful to have performed in masterclasses with Sandy Yamamoto of the Miró Quartet, Jinjoo Cho, and Matt Albert. The Poiesis Quartet is primarily coached by Sibbi Bernhardsson of the Pacifica Quartet and is additionally mentored by the Verona Quartet and Kirsten Docter of the Cavani Quartet. 
     Comprised of violinists Sarah Ma and Max Ball, cellist Drew Dansby, and violist Jasper de Boor, members of the Poiesis Quartet have attended programs such as Kneisel Hall, the Perlman Music Program, Verbier Festival, Aspen Music Festival, and Madeline Island Chamber Music’s Fellowship program. In addition to quartet, Sarah and Drew are also completing Bachelor’s degrees in American Studies and Chemistry (respectively), Jasper is double majoring in violin and viola performance with a minor in baroque violin, and Max is pursuing a minor in jazz studies. When not playing chamber music, Poiesis loves to learn new languages on Duolingo, share delicious ice cream cakes, and take long walks on the beach.
     The name Poiesis is derived from the ancient Greek word  ποιεῖν, which means “to make”. Heidegger refers to poiesis as a ‘bringing-forth’, the “blooming of the blossom, the coming-out of a butterfly from a cocoon, the plummeting of a waterfall when the snow begins to melt”. The Quartet strives to replicate the notion of poiesis in our art-making.

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Hayoung Choi, violin (Daejeon, S. Korea)
Katrina Stroud, violin (Austin, TX)
Carlos Walker, viola (St Petersburg, FL)
Juliana Moroz, cello (Winnipeg, Manitoba)

Hailed for their “gleaming sensitivity,” The Turquoise Quartet was founded at The Robert McDuffie Center For Strings, Mercer University where they are all recipients of the McDuffie Center Presidential Fellowship. They founded the quartet in celebration of their friendship, love of boba tea, and their commitment to the joy of string quartet playing. The Quartet has had the opportunity to work closely with distinguished artists including Donald Weilerstein, Lawrence Dutton, Annie Fullard, and Peter Oundjian. Members of the quartet represent four nationalities, and have attended prestigious summer festivals as fellowship students including Domaine Forget, Encore Chamber Music String Quartet Intensive, Aspen Music Festival, Center Stage Strings, Innsbruck Festival, and Amelia Island Chamber Music Festival, and have performed internationally at The Rome Chamber Music Festival. They also perform frequently on the renowned Fabian Concert Series at Mercer University, and throughout Georgia. The Quartet chose the name Turquoise to represent the popular gemstone which is said to bring wisdom, tranquility, and hope.

Junior Division

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Ellen Zhou, violin (Middleton, WI)
Clark Snavely, violin (New Berlin, WI)
Tristan Zhu, viola (Chicago IL)
Amelia Zitoun, cello (Shorewood, WI)


The Pelios String Quartet is comprised of violinists Ellen Zhou, and Clark Snavely, violinist/violist Tristan Zhu, and cellist Amelia Zitoun. All four students are merit fellows at the Music Institute of Chicago’s Academy, a pre-college training program for gifted musicians, and are coached by Rodolfo Vieira. The group recently placed 2nd in the Strings & Piano Division of the 2023 A.N. and Pearl G. Barnett Chamber Competition. They will also be competing at the 2023 Fischoff National Chamber Music Competition in May. They have had the privilege of playing for the Cuarteto Latinoamericano, and in January were invited to perform for a preconcert recital at the Chicago Philharmonic. The name “Pelios,” derived from Greek mythology, refers to the god of emotion and passion. The myth of Pelios describes a conflicted deity whose power was to give people emotions. With happiness came great sadness, and with love came hate. Through our playing, we want to embody the spectrum of emotions Pelios delivers, as well as instill in our audience the indescribable, out-of-body feelings that come with making music.

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Ava Kenney, violin (Madison, WI)
Jane Story, violin (Stevens Point, WI)
Sage Eckard-Lee, viola (Brodhead, WI)
Katarina Kenney, cello (Madison, WI)


The Pondrom String Quartet is the Honors Quartet of the Wisconsin Youth Symphony
Orchestras (WYSO) program. The current quartet, formed in Fall 2022, is comprised of violinists Ava Kenney and Jane Story, violist Sage Eckard-Lee, and cellist Katarina Kenney. All four are members of the WYSO Youth Orchestra. The group is coached by Clayton Tillotson, and has also worked with Karl Lavine. Recently, they were awarded honorable mention in the 2023 Chicago National Chamber Music Competition. In April, the Pondrom String Quartet will present a joint recital with the WYSO Lalita Woodwind Quintet, and on May 5th, they will appear on WPR’s The Midday. The quartet would like to thank their generous sponsors, Cyrena and Lee Pondrom, after whom they are named. 

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Zak Chen, violin (New Berlin, WI)
Kana Aihara, violin (Roseville, MN)
Leo Zupko, viola (Chicago, IL)
Jan Vargas Nedvetsky, cello (Wilmette, IL)


Calcifer String Quartet was formed in the fall of 2022 at the Academy of the Music Institute of Chicago, an advanced pre-college training program. The Quartet is comprised of violinists Zak Chen and Kana Aihara, violist Leo Zupko, and cellist Jan Vargas Nedvetsky, and is coached by artist faculty Jasmine Lin and Paul Zafer. All members of the Calcifer Quartet are Merit Scholarship Fellows at the Academy of the Music Institute of Chicago. “Calcifer” is a magical character of a Japanese animated film. Calcifer is a spark of flame, a keeper of the fire in the hearth, and a loyal friend. Calcifer Quartet members identify with the spontaneity, energy and imagination of their namesake and aspire to conjure magic and transmit sparks of light with their musical offerings. Representing cultural diversity in music, Calcifer Quartet members blend Korean, Japanese, Chinese, German, Jewish, Russian, and Colombian cultures and collectively speak seven different languages. As solo performers, members of the Calcifer quartet have had many individual achievements throughout their musical careers. Hailing from Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Illinois, the group collectively travels over 1000 round trip miles every week to meet at the Music Institute of Chicago. They greatly appreciate each other’s company, stay at one another’s homes, and spend long hours together in rehearsals and coachings. They also have shared many meals together and usually end up around the piano after rehearsals composing new verses to old standards followed by fortississimo choruses of laughter. Despite their short time together Calcifer Quartet has had numerous performance opportunities in the Chicago and Milwaukee metropolitan areas. They have explored a great variety of musical styles, performed music of Heitor Villa Lobos in a master class with Cuarteto Latinoamericano, and have played recitals for their Academy community, friends, and family. Most recently, the Calcifer Quartet was selected as a finalist in the St. Paul String Quartet Competition and as a quarterfinalist in the Fischoff National Chamber Music Competition. Zak, Kana, Leo, and Jan are profoundly grateful for the opportunity to share their music with the audiences. 

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