The Rolston String Quartet Captures First Prize at the 2016 Banff International String Quartet Competition

On Sunday, September 4th, the Rolston String Quartet -- Luri Lee and Jeffrey Dyrda, violins, Hezekiah Leung, viola and Jonathan Lo, cellist -- took first prize at the prestigious 12th Banff International String Quartet Competition. Named in honor of Thomas Rolston, renowned violinist and founder of the Music and Sound programs at the Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity, the Rolstons prevailed after five intense rounds of classical, romantic and contemporary repertoire, including works by Haydn, Schubert, Ravel, Janacek, and Bartok, all capped off by a powerful, moving rendition of Beethoven’s String Quartet no. 8 in E Minor for their finale on Sunday afternoon.

In addition to receiving a $25,000 cash award, the First Prize Laureates will begin a three-year career development program worth over $150,000, with concert tours throughout Europe and North America, and several Banff Centre residencies, one of which includes recording an album.

The quartet’s performances not only featured superb musicianship, but also an added note of drama when six minutes into the Banff Centre co-commissioned work, Zosha Di Castri’s String Quartet No. 1, the quartet members stopped playing and announced, “We’ve broken a string.” ( The quartet left the stage while waiting for Mr. Lo to replace his string, then returned moments later and began the difficult piece over again.

Competitive success is no stranger to the Rolstons, having also been awarded prizes at the Bordeaux, M-Prize, and Chamber Music Yellow Springs Competitions.

And if past success at Banff is an indicator of a bright future, they have much to look forward to. The Dover Quartet from the USA, winners of BISQC in 2013, went on to win the Cleveland Quartet Award and perform over 120 concerts per year. Interestingly, there is another connection between the two groups – centering on the endpin used by Jonathan Lo.

Jonathan Lo

Last summer, Mr. Lo crossed paths with Camden Shaw, cellist of The Dover Quartet, at the Banff Centre. He noticed Shaw’s use of an innovative brass endpin system from Tone Acoustics, and after hearing and feeling the enhanced sound and responsiveness it delivered, he switched to the Tone Acoustics endpin as well.

Lo said, “At first, I was skeptical as to how much an improvement an endpin could provide. However, after trying Camden’s cello and listening to him describe how it changed his instrument, in addition to knowing the amount of time and research he’s spent maximizing its capabilities, I decided to give it a shot. I haven’t regretted it since, virtually every aspect of sound quality from projection, resonance, response, and timbre have drastically improved. Furthermore, my quartet wholeheartedly agrees!”

Videos of The Rolston String Quartet playing at the competition utilizing the Grand Concerto

Video 1 →
Video 2 →

- Jonathan Lo

NOTE: Opinions expressed on this page are those of the individual performers and technicians and do not represent an endorsement by any group,organization or symphony.