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University of Calgary String Quartet

The University of Calgary String Quartet was formed in 1994 with Canadian string artists Amanda Forsyth, Edmond Agopian, Olga Kotova and Christopher Sandvoss. Since then, the quartet has performed nationally and internationally and has been recorded by CBC Radio for regional and national broadcasts, Radio Europa, and the National Radio of Portugal. The quartet’s first CD was recorded by CBC Radio with Anton Kuerti, pianist.

As the resident string quartet at the University of Calgary, it has commissioned and premiered works by the Composition faculty, graduate students and alumni. The quartet has completed performances of the entire Beethoven string quartet cycle and is in the process of completing the Shostakovich string quartet cycle – a first for Calgary.

Maev Brennan, arts critic for the Daily Courier wrote: "more than just colleagues, these four seem to be musical soul mates. They balance, blend and interweave perfectly whether playing Mozart or Shostakovich."

The University of Calgary String Quartet was nominated for the Instrumental Group of the Year Award at the Canadian Folk Music Awards and at the Western Canadian Music Awards. The nominated recording, on the American label MSR Classics, is titled Far Behind I Left My Country – Klezmer and East European Folk Music – Arranged and Composed by Edmond Agopian.

“This is music of deep-seated humanity…incredibly vivacious, sorrowful, nostalgic…performed here with affectionate understanding.” Fanfare Magazine (USA) “...lively, vibrant music…a very attractive compilation disc.” - The Calgary Herald

The University of Calgary String Quartet is supported by the John Lee Roberts Distinguished Professorship in Fine Arts award. As part of the mandate of the quartet the second violin position is awarded to an advanced University of Calgary violin student.

At present, the quartet members are professor Edmond Agopian (violin), Lev Nesterov (violin), Beth Root Sandvoss (cello), and Dean O'Brien (viola).


Edmond Agopian, violin

Edmond Agopian began his violin training in Constantza, Romania where, along with classical studies he played and toured with a taraf- a Romanian /Gypsy ensemble. After immigrating to Canada he continued his musical studies at the University of Toronto (BMus), and the Juilliard School (MMus). In 1991 Mr. Agopian relinquished his post at Acadia University to take up positions as Professor of Violin and Conductor at the University of Calgary, and Artist-in-Residence at Mount Royal University Conservatory. In 2005 Mr. Agopian was awarded the Alberta Centennial Medal “in recognition of outstanding achievements and service to the people and province of Alberta”. At the University of Calgary he was awarded the John Peter Lee Roberts Distinguished Professorship in Fine Arts. He has been on the faculty of the Morningside Music Bridge summer international program at Mount Royal University since its inception in 1997, and is the founder and artistic director of the University of Calgary summer chamber music festival, Contrasts. For thirteen years, he was the Music Director/Concertmaster of Calgary’s professional string orchestra, the Kensington Sinfonia. Conducting work has included performances with the Shanghai Opera Orchestra, the National Arts Centre Orchestra, the Canadian Chamber Orchestra (conductor and concertmaster), the Polish Baltic Philharmonic Orchestra, and the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra (conductor and violin soloist). In 2002 he was appointed Music Director of the Calgary Youth Orchestra, Mount Royal University. As a violinist, he has been a member of numerous chamber music ensembles, and has premiered Canadian compositions in Canada, the U.S. and Taiwan. His performances have been broadcast on regional and national CBC radio programs as well as on radio programs in Asia and Europe.

Lev Nesterov, violin

Lev Nesterov is in his third year of the Bachelor of Music program at the University of Calgary, majoring in Violin Performance where he studies with Professor Edmond Agopian, as well as pursuing a minor in French. Lev has attended and performed at music festivals at the National Arts Centre in Ottawa, the Banff Centre for the Arts, and the Morningside Music Bridge in Shanghai, China. He is an alumnus of the Academy of Music for the Gifted Youth at the Mount Royal University Conservatory. Lev has been a violin soloist with the Calgary Philharmonic, the Edmonton Symphony, and the University of Calgary orchestras. Recently in January of 2013, he won First Prize in the RBC Concerto Competition. Lev has been a member and concertmaster of the Calgary Youth Orchestra, and currently the University of Calgary Orchestra. For the 2013/2014 season, Lev was selected to perform with the UCalgary String Quartet, the University of Calgary’s quartet in residence. He is also the founding member and the first violinist of the Volante String Quartet.

Dean O'Brien, viola

Dean O’Brien earned a Doctorate of Musical Arts Degree from the University of Texas at Austin, and a Bachelor of Music and Master of Music degrees from the Eastman School of Music. He also studied at the Peabody Conservatory, the Banff Centre and the University of California at Santa Barbara.  Dr. O’Brien has taught viola and violin at Medicine Hat College, where he also conducted the Medicine Hat Junior String Orchestra, and Co-Conducted the Medicine Hat College Academy Orchestra.  He has served as principal viola of the Montreal Chamber Orchestra, the Victoria Texas Symphony Orchestra, the Mid-Texas Symphony, the Orchestra of Saint DavidBs and the Santa Barbara Chamber Orchestra, and has played with the Austin, San Antonio, Albany, NY and Santa Barbara Symphony Orchestras, as well as the orchestras of the New Texas and Victoria Bach Festivals.  His principal teachers include Roger Myers, Heidi Castleman, James Dunham and Heiichiro Ohyama. Dr. O’Brien is currently an Instructor at the University of Calgary and the Mount Royal College Conservatory. He is Principal Viola of the Red Deer Symphony Orchestra, member of the Kensington Sinfonia and is the Artistic Director of the Calgary Pro Musica Society.

Beth Root Sandvoss, cello

Beth Root Sandvoss was born in Madison, Wisconsin where, in her early years as a cellist, she studied with Margaret Christy.  Ms. Sandvoss pursued further studies in Madison, Cleveland and San Francisco with cellists Parry Karp, Alan Harris, and Irene Sharp. She has been a member of the Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra, the San Jose Symphony, the Madison Symphony, the Victoria String Quartet, and the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra. Ms. Sandvoss’s performances have taken her throughout North America as well as the Far East.  She has recorded for WERN Madison public radio, RTHK Radio Hong Kong, and CBC Radio. Ms. Sandvoss has a very active chamber music career in Canada.  She is a founding member of the acclaimed Land’s End Chamber Ensemble which was featured at the Alberta Scene in Ottawa in 2005. The two Land’s End CD’s, Four Degrees of Freedom and Rollin’ down #1, have both won the Western Canadian Music Award for Outstanding Classical Recording in 2005 and 2006, respectively. Ms. Sandvoss collaborates regularly with fine musicians around Canada and the U.S. Along with her performing career, Ms. Sandvoss is a very dedicated pedagogue.  She has been asked to work with teachers on her methods and is a sought after clinician. Her pupils have won numerous competitions in Canada, and are regularly invited to summer festivals around the world.  She is a faculty member at the Mount Royal College Conservatory as well as the University of Calgary, and spends her summers teaching and performing at music festivals throughout Canada and the United States.  Ms. Sandvoss has the great pleasure and privilege to perform on a cello made by her husband, luthier Christopher Sandvoss.

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Get your copy of the University of Calgary String Quartet’s award-winning CD of Klezmer and East European Folk Music, Far Behind I Left my Country, on iTunes and Amazon.

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