The Thalea String Quartet brings their signature vibrancy and emotional commitment to dynamic performances that reflect the past, present, and future of the string quartet repertoire while celebrating diverse musical traditions from around the world. Fueled by the belief that chamber music is a powerful force for building community and human connection, the Thalea String Quartet has performed across North America, Europe, and China, and has appeared at the Kennedy Center, Massey Hall, and Weill Hall at Carnegie Hall. They have shared the stage with luminaries of the chamber music world, including members of the Emerson, Borromeo, and St Lawrence string quartets, and they have performed alongside celebrated artists including Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Caroline Shaw, violist Lawrence Power, acclaimed Canadian band BADBADNOTGOOD, and visionary hip hop artist Jay Electronica.
Committed to shaping and contributing to the future of the string quartet repertoire, the Thalea String Quartet has premiered dozens of new works andcollaborated on new commissions with composers including Paola Prestini, Anthony R. Green, Akshaya Avril Tucker, and Tanner Porter.
Winners of the 2021 Ann Divine Educator Award from the Fischoff National Chamber Music Competition, the members of the Thalea String Quartet have been celebrated for their innovative approach to education and community engagement.
The Thalea String Quartet is the Doctoral Fellowship String Quartet at the University of Maryland. The quartet has also held fellowship positions at the University of Texas at Austin and the San Francisco Conservatory. They were top prize winners at the 2018 Fischoff Competition and 2018 Chamber Music Yellow Springs Competition.
Miriam Liske-Doorandish, cello
Kumiko Sakamoto, violin
Lauren Spaulding, viola
Christopher Whitley, violin
Miriam Liske-Doorandish firmly requested her first cello at age 2, and has since worked with Lisa Liske-Doorandish, Bartholomew LaFollette (Royal College of Music), Amir Eldan (Oberlin), and Paul Watkins (YSM). Raised in Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains, Miriam is motivated by a love of collaboration which has led her into traditional chamber settings as well as traditional fiddling sessions. As a member of the exploratory Trio Ondata, she is a silver medalist at Fischoff (’22) and a winner of the YSM chamber competition. Miriam maintains a particular interest in contemporary and historical performance, recently expressed through her work with Yale’s Baroque Ensemble and rogue student collective Versicolor New Music. She has attended festivals such as Kneisel Hall, IMS Prussia Cove, and Musique à Marsac and studied with the Juilliard, Emerson, Brentano, Cavani, Doric, and Chiaroscuro quartets. In counterpoint with her musical life, Miriam is dedicated to community organizing and arts advocacy.
Born in Medicine Hat, Alberta, Kumiko Sakamoto is a devoted performer, chamber musician, and pedagogue. Her commitment to fostering human connection through art has led Kumiko to pursue a richly diverse career as a violinist, vocalist, and advocate.
A passionate collaborator, Kumiko has performed alongside members of the Emerson, Kronos, St. Lawrence, and Borromeo quartets, as well as Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Caroline Shaw, Eighth Blackbird, Leila Josefowicz, and Lawrence Power. With musical interests encompassing a variety of genres, Kumiko has also performed alongside Oscar Lopez, Fred Penner, Kygo, Tower of Power, BADBADNOTGOOD, and Journey. As a founding member of the Thalea String Quartet, Kumiko has performed across North America, Europe, and China, including performances at Weill Hall at Carnegie Hall, the Kennedy Center, and Massey Hall. The quartet’s commitment to community engagement has led Kumiko to develop a variety of unique educational projects, including virtual teaching residencies and a strings program for young people with special sensory needs.
Kumiko is an award-winning solo artist and has performed across Canada, France, Italy, and Poland, including performances at La Fenice in Venice and St. Sulpice in Paris. Her debut album, featuring the first recordings of the works of composer Gino Gorini, was released under the Tactus (Naxos) label in 2015.
Kumiko’s love for musical theater, art song, and choral music led her to pursue training as a coloratura soprano at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music. During her time in San Francisco, she was a member of the San Francisco Symphony Chorus.
As an educator, Kumiko is committed to fostering creativity, health, and wellbeing amongst musicians of all ages. She developed strings programs for students in underserved communities in San Francisco, while maintaining an active private studio for beginner, advanced, and adult students.
Kumiko has received degrees from Mount Royal University, the San Francisco Conservatory, and the University of Texas. Her principle mentors include Michael van der Sloot, William van der Sloot, Ian Swensen, and the Miró Quartet.
A dancer for most of her life, Kumiko still enjoys attending ballet classes, as well as cooking healthy meals and baking for her friends and family. She is a dedicated advocate for social justice, health, and food awareness.
Lauren Spaulding, under the alias of @MonochromeViola, has established herself as a rising genre-defying soloist and chamber musician through her “anonymous practice blog” on Instagram. Spaulding, a Texas native, studied under the tutelage of Professor Peter Slowik at the Oberlin Conservatory of Music and has worked with Geraldine Walther of the Takács Quartet, Roger Tapping of the Juilliard String Quartet, and soloist Nobuko Imai.
Spaulding is currently in residence at the University of Maryland as the violist of the acclaimed Thalea String Quartet. Additionally, Lauren is a member of Meredith Monk’s contemporary performance ensemble, a regular with the Colorado Symphony, an award-winning studio recording artist, and Principal Violist and Festival Artist of the Colorado MahlerFest. Spaulding is the co-founder of the Tallā Rouge Viola Duo with fellow violist Aria Cheregosha. Tallā Rouge, a Cajun & Persian viola duo, inspires composers from around the world to explore the virtuosity and beauty of the unusual instrument pairing across genres. In summer 2021, Spaulding attended Yellow Barn as a featured festival artist and placed as Finalist for the International Music Grand Prix competition held at Carnegie Hall.
Holding the belief that “good music is good music,” Spaulding uses her love for genre-bending performance to question the societal perception of classical music and to advocate for composers of all genders, identities, ethnicities, and backgrounds. Having struggled with learning disabilities and gender identity in her youth, Spaulding holds a special passion for inspiring young neuro-atypical and LGBTQ+ musicians to pursue the arts. Additionally, Spaulding works with Kim Kashkashian and her Boston team as a Co-Chapter head for Music for Food, an initiative battling food insecurity by creating meals from music. In 2012, Spaulding was invited to perform at the White House for President Obama for her social advocacy through music as a “Champion of Change.”
Spaulding has performed chamber music alongside Don Weilerstein, Carolin Widmann, Lawerence Lesser, and Jorja Fleezanis and has performed with members of the Cavani Quartet, Orpheus, Imani Winds, the Brentano Quartet, the Tesla Quartet, the Rolston Quartet, the Takács Quartet, the Pro Arte Quartet, and members of the BBC Symphony Orchestra, the Houston Symphony, the London Symphony Orchestra, the San Francisco Ballet, the RTÉ National Symphony Orchestra, the Hong Kong Philharmonic, the Minnesota Orchestra, the San Francisco Symphony, the English Symphony Orchestra, the New York Philharmonic, the Chicago Symphony, and the Cleveland Orchestra.
Canadian violinist Christopher Whitley is an engaging and versatile performer, a dedicated educator, and a genre-defying composer. From Baroque to jazz to electronic music, Christopher is committed to exploring and performing music of all styles.
As a founding member of the Thalea String Quartet, Christopher has performed recitals across North America, Europe, and China. The Thalea String Quartet currently serves as the Doctoral Fellowship String Quartet at the University of Maryland. An avid proponent of contemporary music, Christopher is actively involved in the performance and commissioning of new works. His most recent commissioning initiative, Vocalise, explores the connection between the violin and the human voice and will result in new works by Nicole Lizée, Matana Roberts, and Kara-Lis Coverdale. Vocalise is generously supported by two Explore and Create grants from the Canada Council for the Arts.
Christopher has spent more than a decade developing and presenting innovative educational programming. He was a recipient of the 2021 Ann Divine Educator Award from the Fischoff National Chamber Music Competition, alongside his colleagues in the Thalea String Quartet.
Christopher’s original compositions blend organic instrumentation, electronic processing, and computer-generated visuals to explore concepts of nature, connectivity, and memory. He has released four albums of his original works. He writes and releases songs as Body Surfer. Body Surfer’s second EP, Dustups, will be released in October 2021.
Christopher has received degrees from McGill University, the San Francisco Conservatory, and the University of Texas. His principle mentors include Mark Fewer, Ian Swensen, and the Miró Quartet.
In his spare time, Christopher can be found at record stores, libraries, and coffee shops, and he does whatever he can to get into a canoe. Christopher performs on the 1700 “Taft” Stradivari, generously on loan by the Canada Council for the Arts Musical Instrument Bank.