Ansonia String Quartet’s Biography

The Ansonia Quartet is now embarking on its third season together as an ensemble, and is comprised of members representing a global reach: Sumire Hirotsuru and Byungchan Lee (violins), Grace Takeda (viola), and Isabel Kwon (cello). Byungchan and Grace are Canadians – colleagues and friends since their youth orchestra days in Vancouver. Sumire hails from Oita (Japan), while Isabel is from Okemos (Michigan).

The Ansonia’s international career was launched off the heels of a successful crowdfunding campaign in 2017. They met their target goal of $10,000 in nine days to tour to Japan where they performed recitals in Oita and Tokyo, and held workshops for Japanese students.

Since then, the quartet has held a two-week residency at the Lunenburg Academy of Music Performance in Nova Scotia, travelled to Toronto for recitals and community engagement performances, and coached and led the Durham Youth Orchestra in a featured joint concert. In the United States, the quartet appeared at the Chamber Music Society at Lincoln Center for masterclass with Ani Kavafian, and performed recitals at the Harvard Club of New York, Nicholas Roerich Museum and SOPAC (South Orange Performing Arts Center).

The Ansonia’s passion to push string quartet boundaries has led them to pursue fresh literature. They have given world premieres of Jia Daqun’s String Quartet No.2 at Juilliard’s 2018 Focus! Festival, as well as of Nathan Prillaman’s Traces in collaboration with dancers from New York City Ballet at the New York Choreographic Institute. The quartet was invited to premiere four works at the MoMA’s Summergarden series, two of which were also world premieres.

In addition to exploring new music, the quartet infuses Argentine tango into their repertoire. They held a tango presentation to the Juilliard community in collaboration with Grammy-award winning bandoneon player, Hector del Curto. In the 2019/2020 season the quartet will continue to expand their artistic vision by programming 21st century music, as well as traditional tango from Argentina at venues including the Shandelee Music Festival and the Robbie Collomore Series.

Formed at The Juilliard School in September 2016, they were awarded a Gluck Community Service Fellowship through The Juilliard School to pursue community engagement endeavours, as well as a coveted position in the Honors Chamber Music Program for the 2017/2018 season. The quartet worked primarily with Ronald Copes and Roger Tapping of the Juilliard String Quartet, as well as with Sylvia Rosenberg and the Dover String Quartet.


Byungchan Lee, violin

A native of Vancouver, Canada, violinist Byungchan Lee has garnered international recognition as a prizewinner at the Yuri Yankelevitch International Violin Competition, as one of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation’s (CBC) 30 Hot Canadian Classical Musicians Under 30, and for performing alongside Stevie Wonder in the Songs in the Key of Life tour at the Bell Centre in Montreal. He was previously one of CBC Radio’s “Next!” classical music stars, and has recorded two national broadcasts as well.

Lee received his master’s degree from Juilliard where he served as co-concertmaster of the orchestra, and was awarded a Benzaquen Career Advancement Grant upon graduation. He is also a recipient of the Sylva Gelber Music Foundation Award, McGill University’s Golden Violin Award, and was featured in The Strad and La Scena Musicale. He plays on an 1869 J.B. Vuillaume violin and Vuillaume model bow, on loan from the Canada Council for the Arts Musical Instrument Bank.


Sumire Hirotsuru, violin

Born in Oita, Japan, violinist Sumire Hirotsuru has multifaceted interests in music, education, and writing. During the past season, she has appeared at Leipzig Gewandhaus, Pilobolous’ Five Senses Festival, Chamber Music Society at Lincoln Center, Carnegie Hall, and WQXR, collaborated with Yo-Yo Ma and Silk Road Ensemble, Bach Collegium Japan, and more. She has recorded video game soundtracks including Final Fantasy XV, which has sold more than 8 million copies worldwide.

Every year since 2013, she has invited American students to her hometown for Summer in JAPAN, her own two-week education program for Japanese schoolchildren to give various workshops such as computer science, writing, and performing arts. Her first book has been published in February 2019 in Japan from Kadokawa.

Sumire earned a B.A. from Harvard University in 2016 and a M.M. from The Juilliard School in 2018. She is a recipient of the William Schumann Prize.


Isabel Kwon, cello

Korean American cellist, Isabel Kwon, grew up in Okemos, Michigan. She completed her undergraduate degree at the University of Michigan with Richard Aaron and her Master of Music at The Juilliard School with Timothy Eddy. In a leadership role, Isabel was co-principal cellist of The Juilliard Orchestra and has played under maestros Alan Gilbert, Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla, Gerard Schwarz, and Edo de Waart.

She has performed with Lansing Symphony, Toledo Symphony, and Central Michigan Alumni Orchestra and in masterclasses for Amir Eldan, Clive Greensmith, Frans Helmerson, Eric Kim, Amit Peled, and Brinton Smith. An avid chamber musician, Isabel has attended Kneisel Hall, MMCJ, and Sarasota Music Festival. She attended Stowe Tango Festival for the past two years and recent ventures have been performing new tango by composer Aaron Travers.

She is currently pursuing a doctorate degree at Indiana University’s Jacobs School of Music as Eric Kim’s teaching assistant.


Grace Takeda, viola

A native of North Vancouver, Canada, Grace began her musical studies on the violin at the age of four. She received her Bachelor of Music in violin performance at McGill University, but her love of lower frequencies prompted her to switch to the viola in her last year of her undergrad and she has not turned back since. She has had the opportunity to perform with various ensembles including the The Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra, Kaleidoscope Chamber Orchestra, the Yale Schola Cantorum and Symphony in C.

Her true passion is playing chamber music and has led her to be able to collaborate with musicians such as, Atar Arad, Boris Berman, the Brentano, Frank Cohen, Emerson and Miro String Quartets, Edward Gazouleas, Frank Morelli, Philippe Muller, Peter Oundjian, Michael Rusinek, Arnold Steinhardt, Steve Tenenbom and Tabea Zimmermann. Her previous mentors include Mark Fewer, Denise Lupien, Andre Roy, and Heilwig von Koenigsloew. She holds a Master of Music from The Juilliard School and is currently pursuing a Post Baccalaureate Diploma at The Curtis Institute of Music with Roberto Diaz and Hsin-Yun Huang.