Press "Enter" to skip to content

Opus 5: Episode 5: Roundtable with Skyros Quartet

In our final installment of Opus 5, we invite you to a candid, wide-ranging conversation among ourselves. After engaging with numerous special guests over 24 episodes, we realized it was high time to let you, our listeners, in on who we are, your hosts at the Counterpoint Club. We trust you’ll appreciate the chance to learn more about us in our natural setting as the Skyros Quartet, and we hope you’ll find this episode as enjoyable as we did in sharing it with you.

Skyros Quartet
Skyros Quartet

The Skyros Quartet brings a bright and inventive style to the performance stage, having concertized extensively on multiple continents, with their playing noted as “[taking] to each piece with a ravishing, articulate, sonically appealing approach that has passion more than sentiment, [with] fully coherent phrasing” – Gapplegate Classical-Modern Music Review and “The quartet plays with enthusiasm and precision” -audiophile audition. The members of Skyros Quartet are Sarah Pizzichemi, Brandon Vance, Justin Kurys, and Willie Braun. Established in 2010, they have been heard at some of the most prestigious venues and music festivals including the Aspen Music Festival and School (Aspen, Colorado), Seattle Chamber Music Society (Seattle, Washington), Deer Valley Music Festival (Park City, Utah), Sunflower Music Festival (Topeka, Kansas), QuartetFest at Sir Wilfrid Laurier University and Kitchener-Waterloo Chamber Music Society (Ontario, Canada), the CommonTone Arts Music Festival (Moscow, Idaho), and at the University of British Columbia concert series (Vancouver, Canada). Skyros has also performed on tour in Xi’an and Hangzhou, China. Skyros had the honor of giving the West Coast premiere of the newly composed Piano Quintet by Philip Glass with acclaimed concert pianist Paul Barnes who commissioned the work. Along with celebrated cellist Eric Wilson (Emerson String Quartet emeritus), the quartet gave the Canadian premiere of Mikołaj Górecki Elegy for Cello and String Quartet at the University of British Columbia.

Skyros released their debut album, INTROSPECTIVE ODYSSEY, to great international acclaim in August 2015. It can be heard on the Navona label of Parma Recordings, and includes works by Sibelius, Turina and Britten. Most recently in 2023, they released an EP recording of the string quintet My Lai with composer and pianist Peter Colclasure. As a quartet, Skyros has collaborated with many living composers in the performance of new music. Performing with the internationally celebrated percussion group arx duo, they gave the west coast premier of works for percussion duo and string quartet by Michael Laurello and Christopher Dietz. Skyros worked with internationally renowned Latvian composer Pēteris Vasks presenting many of his works for string quartet. The quartet recorded and performed the world premier of the 2017 critically-acclaimed ballet Approaching Ecstasy with contemporary dance company Whim W’him, vocal ensemble The Esoterics, and composer Eric Banks. They have commissioned and premiered string quartets by Kate Skinner (Wounded Bird, She Dances, 2021), Sabrina Clarke (On Whale Beach, 2021), Liza Sobel (Prayer, 2011), and Devin Maxwell (Bouquet Canyon, CA, 2013). They have also worked with Tonia Ko (Aspen Music Festival and School), Charlie Leftridge (in collaboration with the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Chamber Singers and again with the Esoterics), and Stephanie Martin (Sound in the Land conference at the University of Waterloo).

In 2014, Skyros was featured at Fast Forward Austin, a new music festival in Austin, Texas. Skyros performed string trios and quartets by the four composers of the New York City W4 New Music Collective: Ruben Naeff, Molly Herron, Matt Frey, and Tim Hansen. Skyros made up the core string section of the UT New Music Ensemble for its 2011- 2012 season.

Founded in 2010, Skyros earned Masters in Chamber Music Performance from the University of Texas at Austin Sarah and Ernest Butler School of Music, mentored by the Miró Quartet and Sandy Yamamoto. From 2012-2015, they served as the Graduate Quartet-in-Residence at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Glenn Korff School of Music, where they completed Doctorates in Chamber Music Performance under the guidance of the Chiara String Quartet. Skyros was also mentored by Earl Carlyss (Juilliard Quartet), James Dunham (Cleveland Quartet), Sylvia Rosenberg, and members of the Takacs, American, Jupiter, and Pacifica String Quartets at the Aspen Music Festival and School Center for Advanced Quartet Studies. Skyros has also been coached extensively by the Penderecki and Muir String Quartets as well as composer Joan Tower.

Skyros is passionate about educating audiences to the wonders of the string quartet. They regularly visit schools, lead community engagement programs and interactive family concerts, enabling them to inspire audiences of all ages and musical backgrounds. In 2015, the members of Skyros developed an in-school chamber music coaching program from the educational non-profit organization Chamber Music Guild. This in-school program provides weekly coachings to young string quartets using a curriculum designed by Skyros. The members of Skyros Quartet became artistic directors of CMG in 2016. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Skyros Quartet and CMG developed a chamber music podcast to stay connected to the larger music community called The Counterpoint Club. Members of Skyros have also served as faculty at Seattle University, Edmonds Community College, Union College (Lincoln, Nebraska), and the University of Texas at Austin String Project. At UNL, they were Graduate Teaching Assistants for chamber music outreach and a teaching-artist class that works with students to develop interactive presentations for children.

In February 2020, Skyros Quartet formed Constellation Creatives, their own non-profit 501(c)3 organization. Constellation Creatives champions innovative experiences of storytelling through the lens of chamber music with a vision to forge an interactive cultural institution embedded in the Puget Sound community.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *