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Stephen Upshaw

Professorial Staff - Viola


Stephen Upshaw photo


American violist Stephen Upshaw regularly appears in festivals around the world including the BBC Proms, Cheltenham, Aldeburgh, Lucerne, Brighton, Huddersfield, Aix-en-Provence, Wien Modern and the Salzburg Chamber Music Festival. Much in demand as a chamber musician, he is a member of the award-winning Solem Quartet – recognized as one of the most innovative and adventurous quartets of its generation. He has also shared the stage with artists such as Tai Murray, Gary Hoffman, Sheku Kanneh-Mason, Philippe Graffin, Jennifer Stumm and Garth Knox. Recent engagements have taken him to Boston’s Jordan Hall, London’s Barbican and Wigmore Halls, Tokyo Opera City, Weill Recital Hall at Carnegie Hall and Vienna’s Konzerthaus.


A noted interpreter of contemporary music, Stephen is also a member of London’s Riot Ensemble, winners of the Ernst von Siemens Foundation Ensemble Prize, whose disc ‘Speak Be Silent’ was selected as one of New Yorker Magazine’s ‘Best Recordings of 2019’. He has worked closely with many of today’s leading composers, including John Adams, Thomas Adès, George Benjamin and Helmut Lachenmann. Expanding the repertoire of the viola through the commissioning of new music has always been a feature of Stephen’s work. He has taken part in over 300 world premieres including chamber music of Georg Haas and Sally Beamish (alongside the composer) and solo works of Mark Simpson, Michael Finnissy and Errollyn Wallen.

Recent solo appearances include: Feldman’s complete “The Viola in My Life” at Cafe Oto and “Rothko Chapel” with the New London Chamber Choir, Jonathan Harvey’s Jubilus and Benjamin Graves’ new concerto “Four Façades” with the Riot Ensemble, and recitals in the Time of Music Festival (Finland) and Little Missenden Festivals, Kettle’s Yard and the National Gallery.

Stephen has also toured regularly to the USA, Europe and Asia with the Academy of St Martin in the Fields and its music director, Joshua Bell and works with the Chineke! Orchestra as principal viola and as a member of the chamber players.

Additionally, Stephen has a strong interest in synthesizing music with other fields and has helped realize collaborative projects with the Boston Architectural College, Transport Theatre Company, Rambert Dance Company and Parasol Unit Art Space. He was also the artistic director of “Sounding Motion” – a company exploring the relationship between live contemporary chamber music and dance. Recognized for his work in this area, Stephen was recently invited to give  presentations at the New England Conservatory, University of Sussex and  Auburn University on the topics of contemporary music, entrepreneurial musicianship and interdisciplinary collaboration and has also given masterclasses and lead seminars at Trinity Laban. He was also a featured guest on BBC Radio 3’s “This Classical Life”.

A native of Atlanta, Stephen studied with Dr. Marilyn Seelman before earning a BMus (Hons) from the New England Conservatory in Boston under the tutelage of Carol Rodland and Martha Strongin-Katz. Stephen completed his Postgraduate studies in the class of David Takeno at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, where he was elected a Junior Fellow and won a Guildhall Scholarship. Chamber Music mentors include Paul Katz, Ferenc Rados, Alasdair Tait and members of the Takacs, Belcea, Endellion, and Arditti Quartets.

In 2016 Stephen was awarded a prestigious soloist Fellowship from Trinity Laban  and is currently professor of viola and chamber music at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama Junior Department and Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance

Stephen plays a 1715 Daniel Parker school viola currently made available to him by the Stradivari Trust.

Image credit: Matthew Johnson