Based in Adelaide, Sharon Grigoryan was the cellist with the Australian String Quartet from 2013-2020. As part of that group she has collaborated with artists such as the Goldner and Tinalley Quartets, Pieter Wispelwei, Sara Macliver, Slava Grigoryan, Pepe Romero, Wolfgang Muthspiel, Katie Noonan, Lou Bennett, William Barton, Konstantin Shamray, Caroline Almonte, and the Melbourne, Sydney, Tasmanian and West Australian Symphony Orchestras. 

Born in Melbourne, Sharon studied at the University of Melbourne and the Australian National Academy of Music (ANAM) under David Berlin, Philip Green, and Howard Penny. From 2008-2012 Sharon held a position with the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra, and in  2011 Sharon was a recipient of the MSO Friends’ Travel Scholarship which took her to Berlin to study with Professor Wolfgang Emanuel Schmidt and Nicolas Alsteadt. Whilst there she performed with the Mahler Chamber Orchestra and Spira Mirabilis Chamber Orchestra. 

Still an avid chamber musician, Sharon has enjoyed performing with artists such as Vilde Frang, Lawrence Power, Torlief Thedéen, Tipi Valve, Satu Vänskä, Richard Tognetti, Elizabeth Layton, Andrea Lam, Thalia Petrosian, Joseph Tawadros, Kristian Chong, and many others. 

Sharon has performed as a guest with the Australia Ensemble and Australian World Orchestra, and has been invited to be guest principal cellist with most of the Australian Symphony Orchestras. Sharon was the Artistic Director of the “Barossa, Baroque and Beyond” music festival from 2013-2021. In 2019 Sharon curated a chamber music series, “Live at the Quartet Bar” as part of the Adelaide Festival Centre, and made her debut as a radio presenter on ABC Classic. 

Apart from teaching the cello privately, Sharon has tutored ensembles such as the Melbourne Youth Orchestra, the Australian Youth Orchestra, is on staff at the University of Adelaide, and been a guest chamber music tutor at ANAM and the University of Melbourne.

Sharon formed the cello/guitar duo with husband Slava Grigoryan in 2014, and this has been a particularly joyful musical and personal collaboration for her. She is currently on contract as acting Associate Principal Cello of the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra.


Question: Can you tell us a bit about you, and what you are up to these days?

Answer I'm 39 years old and am a cellist who lives with my small family, two cats, and too many chickens in Adelaide. In my musical life I've done countless wedding gigs, freelance work with all the Melbourne orchestras, recording sessions, studied overseas (twice), had a job with the Melbourne Symphony, freelanced with some amazing orchestras overseas, toured with the ACO many times, been the cellist with the Australian String Quartet, played a few times with the Australian World Orchestra… and now, I'm on contract as Associate Principal Cello with the ASO, as well as doing the odd chamber music gig and performing and touring in a duo with my guitarist husband. <br> <br>Luckily, these days, I have plenty of time around my work to enjoy my non-musical life, which, apart from family and friends, involves a LOT of gardening and chicken time.

Question: What was a highlight of your time in AYO programs?

Answer Definitely Shoenberg's <i> Gurrelieder </i> performance in Perth... I think it was around 2004. That work changed my life and opened my eyes and ears to a genre of orchestral playing I'd never been aware of before.

Question: What skills, musical and otherwise, did you take away from your time at AYO?

Answer I was lucky to be a member of the Melbourne Youth Orchestra under the baton and guidance of Peter Bandy, so I was already well taught on orchestral repertoire, and, very importantly, orchestral and professional etiquette. With AYO, I made so many friends from all over the country who I am still in touch with today. Also, spending prolonged time in the cello tutorials with such amazing tutors was an absolute inspiration to me. I still remember every single one of them.

Question: How did you find the experience of returning to AYO programs as a tutor or guest artist?

Answer The first time I returned as a tutor I was 28 years old. I almost felt like an imposter, as I really wasn't that much older than some of the participants! Perhaps that was a good thing, as I started off with the feeling that the students were all musical colleagues of mine as well as people I could help, and I still feel like that today, even though the age gap is significantly larger.

Question: What was your favourite piece or performance during your programs?

Answer Apart from the above mentioned, it would be Strauss' <i>Death and Transfiguration</i>. It was the first major piece that we rehearsed on my first ever National Music Camp, so that is a visceral memory for me. To this day I don't have to practice the part before playing it, as it's so engrained in my muscle and heart's memory.

Question: Why do you think AYO is important to the Australian cultural landscape?

Answer For the same reason any musical education institution, big or small, is important to the Australian cultural landscape. As Churchill said when faced with the option to cut funding to the arts during the War: "Well then, what are we fighting for?" Music is humanity. Everyone needs it. Thanks to technology, ironically, people are feeling even more isolated these days. AYO's national program helps bind the Australian musical family together.

Question: How would you describe AYO in three words?

Answer Friendships, inspiration, nostalgic.

Question: Is there anything else you would like to tell us about you or your time at AYO?

Answer As an AYO student, there was one night (well, let's face it, there was more than just one) where I'd had a bit too much to drink and had not enough sleep. The conductor in the morning rehearsal was rehearsing another section for long enough for me to permit myself to close my eyes and rest my chin on my cello to have a little nap. I didn't know there was a photographer for the newspaper there, and my sleeping face ended up on a rather large spread, with the caption below: "cellist Sharon Draper drifts away with the music on AYO's National Music Camp..." My mum still has that photo framed in her home and I've never told her why exactly I was "drifting away".

Question: What was one of the first pieces of music to inspire you?

Answer Maurice Ravel's <i> Piece En Forme de Habanera </i>. I learnt it in year 7, and it was the first piece where I realised I could truly express myself through different colours in the cello. It was the first piece where I felt like I was a musician, and not just a struggling cellist. It was electric.

Question: What pieces would you share with people who want to discover more about orchestral music?

Answer To be honest, I can't really answer that question without knowing who I'm sharing with! I've had quite a few people ask me this question and my answers have been influenced by what sort of energy I get from them. I do know, however, that a Beethoven Symphony would surely be on there.

Question: Is there a piece of advice you received from a music teacher/mentor that has always stayed with you?

Answer Two that always stick out. Sarah Morse, then AP of MSO at a Melbourne Youth Orchestra tutorial: "You know, it's always so much more fun performing when you can play all the notes". So obvious, but, it was literally a light bulb moment for me! <br> <br> Howard Penny, my teacher in Vienna, 2005 - we had been talking about the intricacies of what 294 things you need to think of to make a smooth bow change, and my mind was starting to melt. He sensed this and said: "in the end, it just comes down to moving the bow sideways to the right, slowing down until it stops, then slowly starting to move it back to the left, and then, repeat." Again, so obvious when said like that. Sometimes, it's good to be reminded of the greater, simpler, things.

Question: How or why did you choose your instrument?

Answer My parents, who were music teachers, chose it for me when I was 9. I was already passionately into the piano and maintained that I wanted to pursue piano for a career. That is until I joined the Melbourne Youth Orchestra in Year 11 and I was then hooked on cello and orchestral music.

Question: What instrument would you play if you couldn’t play your primary instrument?

Answer Electric bass, or drum kit, in an 80s band. Rock/funk. OR, killer jazz piano like Keith Jarrett.

Question: Which composer would you invite to a dinner party and why?

Answer Mozart. He'd be hilarious.

Question: Where in the world would you most like to perform and why?

Answer I've always had a dream to perform cello to the elephants in one of those elephant recovery sanctuaries.

Question: Would you rather: that you sounded like a tuba when you sneezed, or sounded like a piccolo when you laughed?

Answer Without a doubt the first one.

Question: Is there anything else you'd like to say?

Answer If I could give only one piece of advice, it would be: Play as well as you can and be as nice as you can. Remember that you're a human first, which then therefore helps you be a musician.