The Black Mozart
Virginia Native, first-year New World Symphony violinist fellow Brendon Elliott received his Bachelor’s from The Curtis Institute of Music in after studying with Pamela Frank, and the late Joseph Silverstein and completed his Master’s at The Juilliard School under Sylvia Rosenberg and Ronald Copes. He began his violin studies under his mother’s tutelage at the age of three and made his solo debut when he was 10 years old. Since then, he has soloed and played with many orchestras such as the Virginia Symphony, Richmond Symphony, Sphinx Virtuosi Chamber Orchestra, Orpheus Chamber Orchestra, Orchestra St. Luke’s, and Chineke! Orchestra.
In 2002, four friends decided to join forces to explore their collective passion for chamber music. Thus, Hampton Roads’ Ambrosia Quartet was formed.
This dynamic ensemble will thrill you with their interpretations of the very best music written for string quartet, from classical favorites to the most recent compositions of celebrated contemporary composers. These talented individuals are all members of the Virginia Symphony Orchestra, but their backgrounds are as diverse as the music they play. Violinists Simon Lapointe and Mayu Cipriano hail from Québec and Tokyo, respectively; violist Beverly Kane Baker grew up locally in Hampton; and cellist Rebecca Gilmore came to the area from Charlotte, North Carolina. Their resumes collectively represent many years of study at the very best conservatories, including the Peabody Conservatory of the Johns Hopkins University, Indiana and Rice Universities, and the Juilliard School.
In more than a decade of recitals, the Ambrosia Quartet has explored the chamber music of Haydn, Hailstork, and Tchaikovsky (New Beginnings); Glazunov, Shostakovich, and Borodin (A Russian Celebration); and Beethoven, Shostakovich, and Brahms in the prestigious Feldman Chamber Series as well as for series by the Virginia Arts Festival and the Virginia Symphony Orchestra. They are not limited to quartets, frequently performing trios or participating in other ensembles. These friends are bonded together by a mutual love of the very best chamber music of any style, and they strive to reach the most diverse audiences possible. They have been heard in churches and museums just as readily as in fine concert halls in the U.S. and internationally.
The quartet has worked closely with Hampton Roads composers, having recorded the string quartets of Adolphus Hailstork for Albany Records and premiered several works by John S. Dixon, including serving as artistic editors of Dixon's transcription for string quartet of Mozart's famous variations for piano on Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star. They have forged another bond within the community recently, becoming the Quartet in Residence for The Academy of Music, a community music school headquartered in Norfolk.
Some might think it no surprise that an excellent orchestra would bring forth an excellent string quartet, but this is not always the case. Chamber music ensembles require a rare chemistry to elevate the playing to a special realm. The Ambrosia Quartet has that chemistry and achieves that elevation. In classical mythology, "ambrosia" is the food of the gods: this quartet exists to share ambrosia with you.
Pianist Dr. Amanda Halstead is an active soloist, chamber musician, and orchestral pianist in the Washington DC area. She frequently performs with several ensembles including the National Symphony, the Kennedy Center Opera House Orchestra, the Maryland Symphony Orchestra, and the Virginia Symphony. As a soloist, she has performed on series such as the Millennium Stage and the Church of the Epiphany Concert Series. During the summer, she is pianist in residence for the Surf and Sounds Chamber Music Festival in the Outer Banks. Since 2005, Dr. Halstead has collaborated with the John Duffy Composers Institute, a program dedicated to promoting new opera and musical theater productions. An advocate for contemporary music, Dr. Halstead enjoys programming concerts that highlight living composers and more specifically, American women composers. Off the stage, Dr. Halstead is a dedicated teacher in the studio and the classroom. Before moving to the Washington DC area, she taught at Old Dominion University where she developed a course entitled “The Healthy Musician” and inspired a working relationship between the ODU arts community and Eastern Virginia Medical Center. Currently, Dr. Halstead teaches at Levine Music in Washington DC. In addition to administrative duties, her teaching load includes traditional students, Suzuki students, chamber music, and faculty workshops on teaching repertoire. To encourage music students, Dr. Halstead volunteers as chairperson for competitions and events in her community. Dr. Halstead earned her Bachelor’s degree from Rice University in Houston, Texas and her Master’s and Doctorate from the College-Conservatory of Music (CCM) at the University of Cincinnati. She currently resides in Springfield, Virginia, with her husband, Matthew and their two young children.