Annual Competition

ANNOUNCING THE COMPETITION FINALISTS FOR 2021

Chamber Music Yellow Spring’s 36th Annual Competition will be held virtually this year due to the Covid pandemic.  As in previous years of the competition, chamber music ensembles submitted video performances, which were screened by a ten-member First-Round Committee. Two finalists were chosen: The Balourdet String Quartet and Trio Gaia.

In past years, judges chose the winner of the competition after a live performance by both finalists. This year, the judges will make this determination from the video applications of the finalists. The judges this year are: Dr. Jonathan Bailey Holland of the Boston Conservatory at Berklee, Dr. Patrick Reynolds, Associate Conductor of the Dayton Philharmonic Orchestra and Professor of Music at the University of Dayton, and Dr. Kia-Hui Tan of The Ohio State University. 

Listen on the radio! The performances submitted by the two groups will be featured on the Live and Local broadcast on WDPR on Saturday, April 24th, 10:00 a.m. 

Vote for your favorite! A new feature of this year’s competition will be a People’s Choice Award in which you will be able to vote for your favorite ensemble beginning on April 24th. You can listen online from a link that will be added to this page on April 24th and vote on this page between April 24th and May 1st at 10 a.m.  The winner of the People’s Choice Award will receive a $500 award in addition to their competition winnings. After the voting for the People’s Choice Award is completed, the winner of the 36th Annual Competition for Emerging Professional Ensembles will be announced on this site.

The Balourdet String Quartet

The Balourdet String Quartet, based in Boston, Massachusetts, is currently in residence at the New England Conservatory’s Professional String Quartet Program. The quartet received the Gold Medal in the 2020 Fischoff National Chamber Music Competition and the Second Prize in the 2019 Carl Nielsen International Chamber Music Competition.

The Balourdet has shared the stage with renowned artists including Cho-Liang Lin, as well as members of the Dover Quartet. It has studied and performed at festivals including the Amelia Island Chamber Music Festival, Aspen Music Festival, Robert Mann String Quartet Institute, and Accademia Musicale Chigiana. The Balourdet String Quartet works primarily with Paul Katz at the New England Conservatory. The quartet was formed in 2018 at Rice University in Houston, Texas under the tutelage of James Dunham, Norman Fischer, and Cho-Liang Lin.

As part of the Fischoff Gold Medal Tour, the Balourdet curated and performed a program for over 500 children in schools across the Michiana region, as well as gave masterclasses through the Fischoff Chamber Music Academy. They have also conducted workshops and masterclasses for string students in the Dallas area and are section mentors for NEC Prep’s String Repertory Orchestra.

The Balourdet String Quartet gets its name from Antoine Balourdet, chef extraordinaire at the Hotel St. Bernard and beloved member of the Taos School of Music community.

The Balourdet String Quartet, based in Boston, Massachusetts, is currently in residence at the New England Conservatory’s Professional String Quartet Program. The quartet received the Gold Medal in the 2020 Fischoff National Chamber Music Competition and the Second Prize in the 2019 Carl Nielsen International Chamber Music Competition.

The Balourdet has shared the stage with renowned artists including Cho-Liang Lin, as well as members of the Dover Quartet. It has studied and performed at festivals including the Amelia Island Chamber Music Festival, Aspen Music Festival, Robert Mann String Quartet Institute, and Accademia Musicale Chigiana. The Balourdet String Quartet works primarily with Paul Katz at the New England Conservatory. The quartet was formed in 2018 at Rice University in Houston, Texas under the tutelage of James Dunham, Norman Fischer, and Cho-Liang Lin.

As part of the Fischoff Gold Medal Tour, the Balourdet curated and performed a program for over 500 children in schools across the Michiana region, as well as gave masterclasses through the Fischoff Chamber Music Academy. They have also conducted workshops and masterclasses for string students in the Dallas area and are section mentors for NEC Prep’s String Repertory Orchestra.

The Balourdet String Quartet gets its name from Antoine Balourdet, chef extraordinaire at the Hotel St. Bernard and beloved member of the Taos School of Music community.

Trio Gaia

Recently named New England Conservatory’s next Graduate Piano Trio In Residence, Trio Gaia is dedicated to offering audiences dynamic, personally relevant experiences both inside and outside the concert hall. The trio recently served as an NEC Honors Ensemble and has been recognized for sharing classical music in the community, receiving both the 2018-19 and 2019-20 Ensemble Fellowship from NEC’s Community Performances & Partnerships initiative. Through the fellowship, they presented a series of concerts at venues ranging from the historic Boston Public Library and Massachusetts Institute of Technology to local schools and senior homes. In 2019, the trio placed in the Plowman National Chamber Music Competition, where they won the Vianello Family Audience Prize and were runners-up in their division. Later that year, Trio Gaia was invited to Carnegie Hall’s Audience Engagement Intensive—presented in collaboration with Ensemble Connect—which allowed the trio to reach audiences across New York City with accessible, interactive performances for elementary school students and seniors alike.

The trio’s 2019-2020 season was scheduled to include recitals in Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Vermont, as well as a residency at the Virginia Arts Festival and many educational and community performances across greater Boston—the COVID-19 pandemic had other things in mind! Fortunately, Trio Gaia was able to give a world premiere in Jordan Hall, perform live for Boston’s outdoor Experience Chinatown festival, and present a number of virtual performances. Highlights have included concerts with Music For Food, Massachusetts Peace Action, and Opus Illuminate, an organization dedicated to showcasing music by composers underrepresented in classical music. The 2021 season will highlight an adventurous audience-interactive-music initiative through their project, Commission: Engage, which they will share in a series of recital and community engagement experiences.

As individuals, violinist Grant Houston, cellist Yi-Mei Templeman, and pianist Andrew Barnwell have established performing careers that have taken them to nine countries for a range of solo and collaborative opportunities. Together, the trio has performed in a masterclass with pianist Inon Barnatan and has studied extensively with renowned artists Vivian Hornik Weilerstein, Merry Peckham, and Max Levinson. Their additional mentors include cellists Lluis Claret and Sæunn Thorsteinsdóttir, and pianists Victor Rosenbaum and Orli Shaham. Currently, the trio members are working towards or have graduated with degrees from the New England Conservatory in Boston. When not rehearsing or performing, you can find Trio Gaia shopping for new outfits or cooking together.

The Balourdet String Quartet Members

Russell Houston, cello

Cellist Russell Houston’s playing has been praised by the Dallas Morning News for his “intrinsically musical [playing].” Houston is the founding cellist of the Balourdet String Quartet, currently in residence at the Professional String Quartet Program at the New England Conservatory. The Balourdet received the Gold Medal at the 2020 Fischoff Chamber Music Competition as well as the Second Prize in the 2019 Carl Nielsen In- ternational Chamber Music Competition in Copenhagen, Denmark. The quartet has also performed at the Schneider Concert Series, Amelia Island Chamber Music Festival, and the Aspen Center for Advanced Quartet Studies.

Russell is the recipient of top prizes at the Lynn Harrell Concerto Competition, Lennox International Young Artist Competition, Mondavi National Young Artists Competition, Sorantin International Competition, and the Samuel and Elinore Thaviu Competion. He has also performed as a soloist with the Dallas Symphony Orchestra and Plano Sympho- ny Orchestra.

His festival appearances include the Aspen Music Festival, Kneisel Hall, New York String Orchestra, Sarasota Music Festival, Piatigorsky International Cello Festival, Py- ongchang Music Festival, and Taos School of Music.

Houston has had the privilege of sharing the stage with renowned artists such as Denis Bouriakov, Cho-Liang Lin, Brinton Smith, and members of the Cleveland and Dover Quartets.

Russell is currently pursuing a Graduate Diploma under the tutelage of Paul Katz at the New England Conservatory. Houston holds degrees from the Colburn Conservatory, Northwestern University, and Rice University. His primary teachers include Clive Green- smith, Hans Jensen, and Brinton Smith.

Benjamin Zannoni, viola

Benjamin Zannoni is the violist of the Balourdet String Quartet, currently in residence in the Professional String Quartet Program at the New England Conservatory, where he studies with Martha Katz. He has received degrees from the Manhattan School of Music’s Pinchas Zukerman Performance Program as well as the Orchestral Performance Program, the Juilliard School, and Rice University’s Shepherd School of Music. In the past, Ben has studied under Karen Dreyfus, Pinchas Zukerman, Patinka Kopec, Heidi Castleman, Robert Vernon, and James Dunham and has played in masterclasses for Koichiro Harada, Kazuhide Isomura, Roberto Diaz, Lawrence Dutton, Richard O’Neil, Richie Hawley, and Jutta Puchhammer-Sédillot. As an avid chamber musician, Ben performs throughout New York City and is a member of a the Balourdet String Quartet. He has attended festivals such as the Young Artists Program at the National Arts Center in Ottawa Canada, Music Academy of the West, Sejong International Music Festival, and the Heifetz International Music Institute.

Angela Bae, violin

Born in Seoul, Korea, Angela Bae began her musical aspirations at the age of three. She studied with Phillip Levy in Los Angeles, California, and graduated in 2020 with her Bachelor’s degree with Paul Kantor at Rice University Shepherd School of Music.

Angela has won awards in Korea and the United States including the The Korea Times Competition, Alexander and Buono International Competition, Music Center Spotlight, and Mika Hasler Competition. She has appeared as soloist in venues such as Weill Hall, Disney Hall, and Sydney Town Hall. When she was 16, she became the youngest Concertmaster of the American Youth Symphony in LA.

As a chamber musician, she performed and worked with artists including James Dunham, Norman Fischer, Kenneth Goldsmith, and Gil Shaham. In 2018, she attended the Taos School of Music, working with Robert McDonald, Thomas Sauer, Borromeo Quartet, Miro Quartet, and Brentano Quartet. From the friendship and musical companionship built during Taos, she became a founding member of the Balourdet String Quartet.

She is currently pursuing her Master’s degree with Don Weilerstein at the New England Conservatory of Music Professional String Quartet Program.

Justin DeFilippis, viola

Justin DeFilippis, violin, is a member of the Balourdet String Quartet, currently the resident ensemble of New England Conservatory’s Professional String Quartet Program. Previously, he completed his Master’s at Rice University’s Shepherd School of Music under the tutelage of Cho-Liang Lin, and Bachelor’s at New England Conservatory working with Donald Weilerstein. He currently studies with Nicholas Kitchen of the Borromeo String Quartet. He completed a minor in music theory along with his performance degree from NEC. In high school, he attended the Juilliard School Pre-College Division, studying with Elizabeth Chang and graduating with the Commencement Award. An avid chamber musician, he has coached and played with members of the Brentano, Pacifica, Miro, Shanghai, Cleveland, Dover, and Ying Quartets as well as the Peabody Trio, and has participated in numerous solo and chamber masterclasses with such artists as Leonidas Kavakos, Augustin Hadelich, Ida Kavafian, and members of the Emerson and Juilliard Quartets. He was a two-time participant of the Taos School of Music, and has also attended the New York String Orchestra Seminar, the Yellow Barn Young Artist Program, the Aspen Center for Advanced Quartet Studies, and received the Kaplan Fellowship at the Bowdoin International Music Festival. He also was a National Finalist of the MTNA Competition Junior Division. Recently, he has also performed alongside Cho-Liang Lin and Jon Kimura Parker, members of Silkroad, and served as concertmaster of the Shepherd School Symphony on a number of occasions.

Trio Gaia Members

Grant Houston, violin

Violinist Grant Houston connects with listeners through diverse performances known for dynamic programming and unbridled musical energy. Sharing chamber music and solo works both within and beyond traditional concert settings, Houston has performed across the world, notably at the Moritzburg Festival Academy in Germany, Yellow Barn Young Artists Program in Vermont, Schlern International Music Festival in Italy, and Music Academy of the West in California, where he collaborated with renowned pianist Jeremy Denk on a guest artist recital. As the violinist of Trio Gaia, a piano trio formed in 2018 with pianist Andrew Barnwell and cellist Yi-Mei Templeman, Houston’s chamber music accolades include the Vianello Family Audience Prize at the 2019 Plowman Competition and the distinction of Honors Ensemble at the New England Conservatory. Recently, Trio Gaia has performed at venues such as New York’s Carnegie Hall and Boston’s Jordan Hall.

Committed to bringing music beyond the formal concert setting, Houston frequently organizes recitals in partnership with schools, senior homes, libraries, and other community settings, and in recent months has brought creative programming into the virtual space. As a recipient of NEC Community Performances and Partnerships Fellowships, he has performed unique and educational recital and piano trio programs to many Boston-area audiences through partner organizations.

A keen proponent of contemporary music, Houston has worked with numerous composers to premiere works that span the breadth of the genre. Recent projects have included a recital focusing on solo violin works of living composers Ellen Taaffe Zwilich and Salvatore Sciarrino, and upcoming endeavors include the commissioning of an immersive, audience-interactive piece with Trio Gaia.

Houston has performed for artists Hilary Hahn, Rachel Barton Pine, Martin Beaver, Inon Barnatan, and Stefan Jackiw among many others, and has worked with members of the Cleveland, Cavani, Brentano, St. Lawrence, Prazak, and Miami string quartets. A graduate of the New England Conservatory, Grant has studied violin with Ayano Ninomiya and Donald Weilerstein, and chamber music with Merry Peckham and Vivian Hornik Weilerstein. He currently performs on a 1757 Michele Angelo Bergonzi violin on loan from a private foundation.

Yi-Mei Templeman, cello

Cellist Yi-Mei Templeman connects with a wide range of audiences by blurring the lines

of classical music performance. She aims to creatively fuse genres, and to rethink the typical presentation of classical music in order to welcome people of all ages, backgrounds and  musical worlds into her distinctly emotive storytelling. Yi-Mei has performed throughout Asia, South America, Canada, and the United States, bringing her music to venues such as Carnegie Hall, Tanglewood’s Ozawa Hall, Walt Disney Hall, Jordan Hall, MIT, and the Nokia Theater. She has spent past summers at Yellow Barn’s Young Artists Program and the Tanglewood Institute, where she was principal cellist of the Young Artists Orchestra. She also toured Taiwan with the National Taiwan Youth Symphony and performed in the International Piatigorsky Festival alongside cellists Sol Gabetta, Mischa Maisky, and many others. Yi-Mei has participated in masterclasses with Lynn Harrell, Paul Watkins, and Norman Fischer, as well as members of the Takacs, Brentano, and St. Lawrence String Quartets. She has worked extensively with mentors Vivian Weilerstein, Merry Peckham, Max Levinson, Antonio Lysy, and Clive Greensmith, and studied with LA Phil’s associate principal cellist, Ben Hong, for four years. Yi-Mei’s previous quartet received first place at the Classics Alive Artist Management Competition.

Especially passionate about educating and forging personal connections with audiences,

Yi-Mei was recognized by the TED organization as an international student leader, and was invited to help organize and host a student TED Talks event at their headquarters in NYC. She also brought her cello-playing to outreach events as an ambassador for both the TED-Ed and Classics Alive Artists organizations in hopes of providing more context for classical music outside of the concert hall. She is also a two-time teaching fellow at New England Conservatory’s Community Performances and Partnership initiative.

Yi-Mei is currently pursuing a B.M. in cello performance with Lluis Claret and a M.M. in chamber music through the Professional Piano Trio Program at New England Conservatory. When not practicing or rehearsing, she spends her time songwriting for voice and cello-guitar, hunting for vintage thrift stores, solving NY Times crossword puzzles, or practicing yoga. You can find her original music on her Instagram, @yimei.cello.

Andrew Barnwell, piano

Whether performing on the piano, teaching, or honing his penchant for concert curation, Andrew Barnwell is almost always working at one keyboard or another.

As a performer, Andrew finds chamber music most fulfilling and is a founding member of Trio Gaia, an award-winning ensemble dedicated to bringing vitality and equity to classical music through personally relevant performances both inside and outside the concert hall.

Presently, the trio’s special projects include a commissioning campaign that invites the audience into the creation of the music itself and a video series that highlights music of composers underrepresented in the classical field. Recent chamber music performances have brought Andrew to schools and public venues across Boston, to the Agassiz Chamber Music Festival in Winnipeg, Canada, and to Jordan Hall. As a soloist, Andrew has appeared with the Bainbridge Symphony Orchestra and has presented solo recitals at NEC and in the community through NEC’s Community Performances and Partnerships initiative.

Early in his career, Andrew developed a passion for event planning, and as a student at the New England Conservatory he kept looking for opportunities to plan, organize, and execute. As a 2017 NEC 150 Fellow, he programmed a series showcasing ten eclectic ensembles as  part of NEC’s Open Studios celebration. From 2018 to 2020, Andrew was one of five NEC Nova Fellows, a team of students who produced multidisciplinary concerts that united music with other performing and visual arts. Most recently, Nova produced “In Good (ac)Company,” a 5-day  virtual concert series in response to the pandemic that presented 13 randomly paired duos of NEC students and alumni. In two years and across six mainstage and community engagement events, the Nova Fellows reached 2,000+ audience members and partnered with local musicians, artists, and businesses, including Sofar Sounds and Roxbury’s Immigrant Family Services Institute. Additionally, Andrew has had the pleasure of volunteering with From the  Top’s Center for the Development of Arts Leaders, interning for Celebrity Series of Boston’s development team, and teaching piano.

Born in Massachusetts, he began his piano studies with Heather Rodgers Riley before relocating with his family to Copenhagen, Denmark, where he studied with Søren Pedersen. Andrew attended high school in Seattle, Washington, and was first a student of Mark Salman before joining the studio of Dainius Vaicekonis, and later, renowned pedagogue Robin McCabe. Andrew graduated in 2020 from the New England Conservatory, where he studied with Victor Rosenbaum, earning a Bachelor’s of Music in piano performance with a minor in history and cultural studies. During Andrew’s many hours spent avoiding the practice room, he can usually be found wandering the galleries of local art museums or searching street-by-street for Boston’sbest ice cream and pastries—recommendations are gladly accepted