Introducing Sonia, Meg, Hayasa and James, otherwise known as The Geist Quartet. Earlier this year, these four young string players were recipients of a scholarship from the Ernest V. Llewellyn Memorial Fund. We caught up with them to hear about their journey so far – violinist Sonia Wilson tells us more:

Three young people walking through trees

How did you decide on the name Geist Quartet?

When we formed the group, Meg, Hayasa and I were all studying with Goetz Richter, a German violinist who has done a lot of study into music and philosophy. So, we looked up a list of German philosophical words and liked the sound of “Geist”. It’s commonly translated as “ghost” or “spirit” but it is also an important philosophical term that Hegel uses to refer to the collective consciousness of a society, which seems quite fitting for a string quartet.

You were awarded an Ernest V. Llewellyn Scholarship earlier this year, could you tell us a bit about your application?

We submitted recordings of the first movement of Mozart’s String Quartet, No.14 in G major “Spring”, and the first movement of Ravel’s String Quartet. Applying as a group is very different to applying as an individual, you have to be able to hear how you sound as a group, rather than just as a soloist. We had also written our application tailored for a specific summer course that we ended up not getting into, but thankfully were able to redo our budget for another course that we were invited to attend.

Geist Quartet with tutors
Geis Quartet with tutors from the Kuss Quartet in Canada

What advice would you give to a young string player considering applying for the scholarship?

Make sure the recordings you submit are of you playing something you love. If you have to do multiple takes of a piece, you may as well make it something you enjoy playing!

What have you all been up to this year?

Meg and I both finished our Masters this year. We’ve all been teaching and freelancing in Sydney when we haven’t been busy with our quartet commitments. As a group we’ve presented concerts in Kendall and Bundanoon in NSW and have been able to travel overseas to three chamber music summer courses at Stanford University, USA, Orford Music Academy, Canada, and in Frenswegen, Germany. We are also putting on a concert at home in Sydney to wrap up the year.

Geist Quartet practising

How has the Ernest V. Llewellyn Scholarship helped you to achieve your goals?

The Ernest V. Llewellyn Scholarship directly funded the Canadian leg of our overseas travels. Thanks to the scholarship we were able to travel to Montreal where we rehearsed for a week before then attending the Orford Music Academy for two weeks where we worked with the Kuss Quartet from Germany and members of the Fine Arts Quartet from USA/UK. It was an incredible experience to have so much time to work with such inspiring teachers and musicians in the gorgeous setting of the Orford National Park.

What are your future plans and aspirations?

As a quartet we are looking into holding a series of concerts in Sydney next year, and hopefully finding time to do a regional tour. We learnt a lot about the benefits of community outreach concerts while overseas and are very interested in looking into something similar that we can do here in Australia.