“Thalea never failed to deliver a stirring performance” - Calgary Herald
The Thalea String Quartet is dedicated to bringing timeless music to audiences from all walks of life. From living rooms to concert stages around the world, the Thalea String Quartet aims to connect with audiences on a musical, emotional and personal level, from first time listeners to string quartet aficionados. They are devoted to building a new and diverse audience for chamber music through innovative programming and community engagement.
Formed in 2014 at the Zephyr International Chamber Music Festival in Courmayeur, Italy, the Thalea String Quartet has been praised for their “vibrant performance” and “sincere expressivity” (SF Classical Voice). The quartet has performed recitals across Europe, the United States, and Canada, and has appeared at the Kennedy Center, Massey Hall, and Weill Hall. They were the first quartet-in-residence at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music from 2015-17. They were recently named the Young Professional String Quartet at the Butler School of Music, where they are mentored by the highly acclaimed Miró Quartet. They also serve as Associated Artists at the Queen Elisabeth Music Chapel in Waterloo, Belgium, where they are mentored by the Artemis Quartet. The Thalea String Quartet were top prize winners at both the 2018 Fischoff National Chamber Music Competition and the 2018 Chamber Music Yellow Springs Competition. They were appointed as the Sphinx Ensemble at the 2018 Great Lakes Chamber Music Festival, and will return this coming summer as a Shouse Ensemble. They were ensemble-in-residence at the Bear Valley Music Festival for the summers of 2018 and 2019, and will serve as the Ernst Stiefel String Quartet-in-Residence at the Caramoor Center for Music and the Arts for the 2019/20 season, where they will premiere a new work by acclaimed composer Paola Prestini.
The Thalea String Quartet prides itself on the diversity of its collaborations. They have performed Mendelssohn’s Octet in its original manuscript form with the award-winning Borromeo Quartet and shared the stage with Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Caroline Shaw in performances of works for voice and string quartet. They have performed alongside Geoff Nuttall of the St. Lawrence String Quartet, violist Jodi Levitz and composer Mason Bates. They were invited to participate in the 2017 KRONOS Festival, where they performed works from the Kronos Quartet’s “50 for the Future” Project. Committed to collaborating with artists of all backgrounds, the Thalea String Quartet has collaborated with San Francisco-based dance theatre company the Joe Goode Performance Group at the Yerba Buena Center, appeared with acclaimed Canadian band BADBADNOTGOOD at the iconic Massey Hall.
The members of the Thalea String Quartet are dedicated educators and bring their commitment to teaching and community engagement to their frequent educational and community performances. They have performed educational concerts to students of all ages and regularly perform at care facilities and schools across the United States.
Christopher Whitley (violin) is originally from Toronto, Ontario, Canada, Kumiko Sakamoto (violin) is from Medicine Hat, Alberta, Canada; Luis Bellorín (viola) is from Naperville, Illinois, and Titilayo Ayangade (cello) is from Cincinnati, Ohio. Christopher performs on the 1700 “Taft” Stradivari, generously on loan by the Canada Council for the Arts Musical Instrument Bank.
Canadian violinist Christopher Whitley is an engaging and versatile performer. From Baroque to electronic music, Christopher is committed to exploring and performing music of all styles.
Christopher has performed on period instruments at the Boston Early Music Festival and the Valley of the Moon Music Festival. An avid proponent of contemporary music, Christopher has performed as a member of NOVUS NY and as both concertmaster and soloist of the McGill Contemporary Music Ensemble. He is a regular guest of San Francisco jazz group Le Jazz Hot, performing music inspired by Stephane Grappelli and Django Reinhardt. As a composer, Christopher’s primary focus is on expanding the potential of the solo violin, incorporating technology, electronic music and interactive visual art. Blending classical music, popular music and a variety of improvised styles, he has performed across the United States and Canada, including at the 2009 CMJ Music Marathon in New York. He has been invited to create new works at residencies at the Banff Centre and at the Britten Pears Young Artist Program in Aldeburgh, UK.
Christopher received his Bachelor’s of music at McGill University studying with Mark Fewer and continued his studies at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music with Ian Swensen. Christopher is a dedicated pedagogue and until recently moving to Austin, maintained a full private studio in San Francisco.
Christopher performs on the 1700 “Taft” Stradivari, generously on loan by the Canada Council for the Arts Musical Instrument Bank. In his spare time, he can be found at record stores, libraries and coffee shops and does whatever he can to get into a canoe.
Kumiko Sakamoto is a devoted performer, chamber musician, and multi-faceted artist. She has performed as a soloist and chamber musician throughout North America, France, Poland, and Italy, including performances at the Kennedy Center, Massey Hall, St. Sulpice (Paris), and Teatro la Fenice (Venice). Kumiko recorded the first album of works by Italian composer Gino Gorini under the Tactus (Naxos) label which was released in 2015.
After studying with Michael van der Sloot in the Medicine Hat College Conservatory Academy, Kumiko went on to receive an Artist Certificate from Mount Royal University, Calgary, Alberta where she studied with William van der Sloot, a Bachelor of Music in Violin Performance and a Master’s degree in Chamber Music from the San Francisco Conservatory of Music where she studied with Ian Swensen. She received a Minor in Vocal Performance from the San Francisco Conservatory of Music under the tutelage of Pamela Fry.
Kumiko’s passion for the arts extends to voice, dance, and theatre, each of which she has studied for many years. She has received many awards, including first place in violin, voice and musical theatre at the Alberta Provincial Music Festival, and a chamber music award at the Canadian National Music Festival. Before moving to Austin, Kumiko was a member of the San Francisco Symphony Chorus where she continued to pursue her love of singing. A dancer for most of her life, Kumiko still enjoys attending ballet classes in her spare time, as well as cooking healthy meals and hosting dinner parties for her friends and family.
Violist Luis Bellorín comes from a family devoted to the arts in Caracas, Venezuela. His playing has been praised for its warmth of sound and for having an "impossibly sweet tone" by The San Francisco Classical Voice. In 2015, he made his debut in Beijing, China at the summit of the Pacific Alliance of Music Schools, where he enjoyed meeting and collaborating with students from music schools throughout the Pacific Rim.
Collaboration is an integral part of Luis’ musical philosophy, as he frequently works with composers to bring new works to life, and he can often be found playing all of the chamber repertoire he can get his hands on, which is always an excellent excuse to play with friends! After his arrival to San Francisco in the fall of 2014, Luis shared the stage with many artists such as the Pacifica, Miró, and Borromeo String Quartets as well as Geoff Nuttall, and composer Mason Bates. He received his Bachelor of Music from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and holds a Master of Music degree from the Indiana University Jacobs School of Music. Luis completed his studies, at both institutions, with the Pacifica Quartet and violist Masumi Per Rostad.
When time allows, Luis loves to travel and has his eyes set on visiting Machu Picchu. As a baseball fan and midwest native, Luis can be found rooting for his beloved Chicago Cubs (GO CUBS!) and enjoys spending time at the beach, on his bicycle, or cooking on his grill at home alongside his two cats.
Cellist Titilayo Ayangade, originally from Cincinnati, Ohio, is a dedicated chamber musician, multifaceted artist and purveyor of music. Titilayo holds a Bachelors of Music from CCM where she studied with Ilya Finkelshteyn, and continued her studies at the Chicago College of Performing Arts as Resident String Quartet with the Yas Quartet. While living in Chicago she maintained an active orchestral and chamber music performance schedule as a member of The Civic Orchestra of Chicago, Chicago Sinfonietta, and the Yas Quartet. Titilayo played at the Classical Music day at the White House in 2009 and appeared as a guest artist with the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra as a member of the Nouveau Chamber Players.
As an avid chamber musician Titilayo has worked with the Ying Quartet, Tokyo Quartet, Harlem Quartet, Takács Quartet, Catalyst Quartet, members of the Juilliard Quartet, and the Vogler String Quartet. As a member of the Yas Quartet, Titilayo was a semi-finalist at the Fischoff National Chamber Music Competition in 2016 and a prize winner at the Schoenfeld International String Competition also in 2016. She has participated in many new music performances and studied several compositions with the Momenta Quartet at the Accent Music Festival in 2012. Titilayo has attended Bowdoin International Music Festival, Sphinx Performance Academy at the Walnut Hill School, Meadowmount Summer Music Festival, International Festival de Inverno Campos do Jordao, Aspen Music Festival, National Orchestral Institute (NOI), and Colorado College Summer Music Festival. Beyond the concert stage, Titilayo has made several appearances on Fox's hit TV show Empire and also enjoys her work as a professional photographer (titilayoayangade.com).