Meet the Violists

Brendan Gillis
Brendan began studying the violin at the age of five, before switching to viola in a moment of profound insight. He has studied with Paul Silver, Jeff Irvine, and Marcus Thompson and worked with coaches including Daniel Stepner, Yehudi Wyner, Robert Levin, and members of the Ying Quartet. While an undergraduate at Harvard, he joined Yo-Yo Ma and the Silk Road Ensemble in a performance of Persian classical music. In 2008, he directed the first Cambridge Viola Festival. In addition, he has appeared as a soloist with orchestras in the US and the UK and has served as principal violist of several university and community ensembles in both countries, most recently the Bloomington Symphony Orchestra. 

Brendan is currently completing a Ph.D. in history at Indiana University, where he studies law and local government in eighteenth-century Britain and its empire. 

What is your Musical Philosophy?
Some combination of radical materialism (“practice makes perfect”) and zen (let go and enjoy the moment).

Do you have a favorite performance memory?
I’ve been lucky to perform in many unusual places and with many wonderful musicians. My favorite performance, however, happened unexpectedly, at the end of a long day during a busy arts festival. Some friends and I had agreed to reprise the slow movement of Beethoven’s String Quartet Op. 132, the “Heiliger Dankgesang eines Genesenen an die Gottheit” (a convalescent’s holy song of thanks to the divinity), which we had performed (along with the rest of the quartet) several months before. We hadn’t really had time to rehearse and were performing in an unfamiliar venue, yet something about coming back to this intensely spiritual and painfully intimate piece of music without any expectations allowed us to find clarity and communion in a way I will never forget.

Jennifer Murray
Native of South Carolina, Jennifer has established herself as an exceptionally versatile and eclectic artist. Classically trained, she has a strong passion for teaching strings, performing chamber music, performing in orchestras and is an active composer and arranger for string ensembles. Murray’s chamber music experiences have been extremely prominent. She has been performing as a violist in the St. Charles string quartet since 2011. Other performance ensembles include New England Chamber Ensemble, Ensemble du Monde, Columbia players’ quartet and Prince Georges Philharmonic. She has also performed with various artists: Regina Carter, Mark O’Connor and Alison Krauss. Murray holds a Bachelor of Music from the Hartt School of Music (West Hartford, CT) in Viola Performance and a Master of Music degree from Boston University (Boston, MA).

What is your Musical Philosophy?
"Don't only practice your art, but force your way into its secrets; art deserves that, for it and knowledge can raise man to the Divine." L. vBeethoven

Do you have a favorite performance memory? My favorite performance was performing in the orchestra with Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg.  She was playing the Tchaikovsky concerto and she was just amazing to work with!
 
Talya Schenk
Talya is a winner of the UMBC (University of Maryland Baltimore County) Symphony’s Concerto Competition and was principal violist of the Symphony of the Potomac. Talya has attended world-renowned programs such as the Round Top Festival Institute and the National Orchestral Institute. She has participated in master classes with members of the Juilliard and Takacs Quartets. 

Talya has had the opportunity to perform in Carnegie Hall’s Weill Recital Hall and at the Russian Embassy in Washington, DC. Talya earned a Bachelor of Arts degree from UMBC and a Master of Music from The Hartt School. She is currently earning a Doctor of Musical Arts from The Catholic University of America. Her teachers include Karin Brown, Rita Porfiris, Maria Lambros, and Kimberly Sparr.



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