Last week, the Cousin Quartet wrapped up their residency with the Australian National Academy of Music (ANAM) at the Abbotsford Convent. The quartet - who also took out the inaugural Robert Salzer First Prize for Strike A Chord in 2020 - were flown down to Melbourne with a guardian to take part in the residency that saw them gain access to private rehearsal rooms with coaching staff for a week of training, that all led to a brilliant performance in front of friends and family to close out the week.

Beatrice, Dylan, Hanna and Jamie of the Cousin Quartet shared their reflections on this fascinating experience, which you can read in full below paired with photos from the day.

Beatrice Colombis (17), 1st Violin

Our week in Melbourne was one of the most amazing experiences I’ve ever had. It was so inspirational to be immersed in such a positive environment and we loved seeing how passionate everyone there is about music. Every single day felt special, and I can honestly say that I can’t pinpoint any particular highlight- it was all wonderful. Every tutorial and lesson that we had with the mentors at ANAM was extremely valuable and I know that I will benefit from everything that I learnt as I continue to grow as a musician. I feel that both my quartet and I personally improved immensely over the course of five days, and I definitely feel inspired to continue to work together and play more chamber music.  

It was amazing to have the chance to collaborate with musicians studying at ANAM, they were all incredibly friendly and welcoming and we had such a great time rehearsing with them. Playing the Mendelssohn Octet and Schumann Quintet was a big team effort and performing the pieces at the end of the week was unbelievably rewarding. We all felt extremely proud.  

I feel immensely grateful to Musica Viva and ANAM (and everyone who made our week possible) for this wonderful opportunity. I want to especially thank student Ruby Shirres who looked after us during the week, she was incredibly kind and made us feel so welcome right from the start. I truly hope to return to ANAM in the future, thank you so much for this life-changing experience.

Beatrice Colombis

Beatrice Colombis

Dylan Colombis (13), 2nd Violin

Our week at ANAM was brilliant in many ways. We got to meet some of the best teachers, play in different acoustic settings and work with amazing people. Sophie Rowell worked with us on the Mendelsohn Octet and Quartet. Howard Penny worked with us on the Haydn and Tim Young worked with us on the Schumann Quintet. Not to mention the students we worked with as well, including Nadia, Ruby, Elliot and Grace who worked with us on the Mendelsohn Octet and Jen who worked with us on the Schumann quintet. Many great ideas were exchanged throughout rehearsals and we developed an idea of each line until we had a more interesting line. We did this for 1-2 hours each session and all of it was worth it and it just helped us so much.

Going out into Melbourne city was fun as well. There was heaps of good food and many cool shops for us to explore. Another Highlight in being at ANAM for the week was that we met Christian Li and to hear the beginning of his lesson with Robin Wilson. He was so good! Meeting him really inspired me to play more lyrically and with more energy.

We also each had a private lesson to work on our solo repertoire. I was so lucky to work with Zoe Black who worked with me on Hebrew Melody by Joseph Achron. Her lesson gave me that boost to really get into the music and enjoy it. Overall, the experience at ANAM was outstanding and I really enjoyed it.

Dylan Colombis

Dylan Colombis

Hanna Wallace (15), Viola

My favourite part of the week at ANAM was getting to play with the other violists there. I was able to participate in the viola class run by Caroline Henbest with the other tertiary students and we worked on intonation and being able to lead when necessary. Being only one of two violists at my high school in Sydney meant that meeting the other violists at ANAM was very valuable. Having the chance to play and interact with other violists who have the same role as me in a string quartet was very enjoyable.

I can never thank Strike a Chord or ANAM enough for giving me this amazing opportunity and prize. It was so incredible to work and play music at ANAM! It changed my life.

The highlight for me was playing the Mendelssohn Octet with the ANAM students. It was the first time I’ve felt such a great connection to the music and I will never forget that experience.

Hanna Wallace

Hanna Wallace

Jamie Wallace (13), Cello

On the first day we attended ANAM, we worked on the Mendelssohn Quartet with Sophie Rowell. She gave us so many new insights and ideas about the Mendelssohn, and helped us a lot with different sections we were struggling with. We also had a session with four other ANAM students, on the Mendelssohn Octet, which was a lot of fun. I loved playing and hearing the incredible level of the other students and teachers, particularly at String and Cello class. We had an amazing session with Tim Young on the Schumann Piano Quintet, where he helped us with phrasing beyond the bar lines and accentuating the seventh chords. On the third day at ANAM we worked on the Haydn Quartet with Howard Penny, where he encouraged and enhanced our playing to a much greater level.

I also had a cello lesson with Howard Penny where we worked on the Saint-Saëns Cello Concerto. He really helped to improve my technique and gave new ways to think about the original ideas of Camille Saint-Saëns.

Jamie Wallace

Jamie Wallace

Donated by the Australian National Academy of Music (ANAM), the ANAM Prize is part of the 2021 Strike A Chord championship, and will be awarded to a string quartet who the adjudicators believe would most benefit from a week-long coaching residency at ANAM.

See more photos from the final day of the Cousn Quartet's