The University of Maryland has awarded its 2020 Graduate String Quartet Fellowship to the Thalea String Quartet (NCMF '19). Each member—violinists Christopher Whitley and Kumiko Sakamoto, violist Luis Bellorín, and cellist Titilayo Ayangade—will receive tuition remission for a doctoral degree, a stipend, intensive chamber music study, professional development, and performance opportunities. In response to the cancellation of most in-person music performances due to COVID-19, the Quartet plans to focus on developing online educational initiatives, commissioning projects, and giving virtual performances.
The Thalea String Quartet was formed in 2014 at the Zephyr International Chamber Music Festival in Courmayeur, Italy. Top prize winners at the 2018 Fischoff National Chamber Music Competition and 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. Dedicated educators, Thalea finished a project during their 2019-20 residency at the Caramoor Center for Music and Arts to develop an innovative online program for young string students.