Profiled by CBC Q, The National, Discovery Channel, and the Toronto Star ("one of the most attention-grabbing concerts of the year"), the JUNO-nominated Afiara Quartet continues to expand what it means to be a performing ensemble in the 21st century.
From its inception in 2006, Afiara was built on the Spanish word fiar, meaning trust. A dynamic and award-winning ensemble, the Afiara has been described as "a revelation" (La Presse) with performances balancing "intensity and commitment" and "frequent moments of tenderness" (Montreal Gazette). Afiara has held residencies at The Juilliard School and San Francisco State University, and Fellowship Ensemble at the Royal Conservatory of Music. Afiara is also winner of the Young Canadian Musicians Award and Concert Artist Guild, in addition to 2nd Prizes at Munich ARD, and Banff International String Quartet Competitions, including the latter's Szekely Prize for the best interpretation of Beethoven. They have performed throughout the Americas, Europe, and Asia, at such venues as Carnegie Hall’s Zankel and Weill Halls, the Kennedy Center, Alice Tully Hall at Lincoln Center, Library of Congress in DC, Sao Paulo’s Museum of Modern Art, Pro Musica of San Miguel de Allende, London's Wigmore Hall, Austria's Esterhazy Palace, Munich’s Prinz Regenten Theatre, Amsterdam’s Muziekgebouw, and the Royal Library in Copenhagen. Their journey is documented in over 30 commissions of new music, new educational outreach initiatives for school children funded by the Ontario Arts Council, and projects with jazz virtuoso Uri Caine, Latin Grammy Award-winning producer Javier Limon, and innovative scratch DJ, Kid Koala.
Valerie Li, first violinist of the Afiara Quartet since its founding, has enjoyed performing at such venues as Carnegie Hall, Alice Tully Hall, Wigmore Hall, the Kennedy Center, Amsterdam’s Muziekgebouw, and touring across North America, Europe, Brazil, Mexico, and China. In 2008, the quartet won the Concert Artists Guild International Competition as well as a top prize at the Munich ARD International Music Competition, and in 2010 won the Young Canadian Musicians Award and top prizes at the Banff International String Quartet Competition.
Ms. Li received her Bachelor of Music from the Peabody Conservatory, where she won the Marbury Prize and the Hulsteyn Award, and her Master of Music from the New England Conservatory. Her primary teachers include Miriam Fried, Herbert Greenberg, and Gwen Thompson, with whom she studied in her hometown of Vancouver. During her studies, Ms. Li was a fellow at Tanglewood Music Center and Aspen Music Festival, performed at Taos School of Music, served as Concertmaster of the New England Conservatory Philharmonia and the Peabody Symphony Orchestra, and performed with the Baltimore Symphony.
During the Afiara Quartet’s residencies at San Francisco State University with the Alexander Quartet and at The Juilliard School with the Juilliard Quartet, Ms. Li has had the opportunity to pursue her passion for teaching and coaching. Further opportunities have arisen though Toronto’s Royal Conservatory of Music, Indiana University Summer String Academy, University of Alberta, and the Orkester Efterskolen in Holstebro, Denmark, as well as numerous outreach and educational activities. Ms. Li is dedicated to making the world of string quartets accessible and relevant to all, including her nephew, whom she shares with Afiara cellist Adrian Fung. His sister is married to Ms. Li’s brother.
Violinist Timothy Kantor is the second violinist of the Afiara Quartet. He is the former concertmaster of the Evansville Philharmonic in Evansville, Indiana and a founding member of the Larchmere String Quartet, the Eykamp String Quartet in Residence at the University of Evansville. He has also performed as a member of the Kuttner String Quartet in residence at Indiana University, the chamber music and “Quartet in the Community” residencies at the Banff Centre, the Juilliard String Quartet Seminar and the St. Lawrence String Quartet Chamber Music Seminar. He has performed with many of today’s leading musicians, including Joshua Bell, Jaime Laredo, Sharon Robinson, Atar Arad, Alex Kerr and the Pacifica Quartet.
Recently Mr. Kantor was featured as the Young Artist in Residence at American Public Media’s “Performance Today.” Mr. Kantor is devoted to the performance of new music and has participated as soloist, concertmaster and chamber musician with the New Music Ensembles at the Cleveland Institute of Music and at Indiana University. Mr. Kantor graduated with honors from Bowdoin College and has a Masters degree from the Cleveland Institute of Music. His former teachers include Jaime Laredo, Paul Kantor, Stephen Kecskemethy and Andrew Jennings. He is currently finishing his doctorate in violin performance at Indiana University’s Jacobs School of Music, studying with Mark Kaplan. Mr. Kantor is also a dedicated teacher and is the Assistant Professor of Violin at the Fundación por la Musica in Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic.
American violist Eric Wong received both graduate and undergraduate degrees from the Cleveland Institute of Music studying violin with Paul Kantor, viola with Lynne Ramsey and Kirsten Docter, and chamber music with Peter Salaff and the Cavani Quartet. He subsequently earned an artist diploma from the Yale School of Music where he worked with Kazuhide Isomura. His chamber music collaborators have included the Tokyo Quartet, Sharon Isbin, Itzhak Perlman, Richard Stoltzman, Donald Weilerstein, and pianist and former US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, among others. Mr. Wong has served as principal violist of CityMusic Cleveland, Assistant Concertmaster of the Akron Symphony Orchestra, and Associate Concertmaster of the Canton Symphony Orchestra.
As former violist of the Linden String Quartet, Mr. Wong is a laureate of the Fischoff National Chamber Music Competition (USA), the Concert Artists Guild Victor Elmaleh Competition, and the International String Quartet Competition “Premio Paolo Borciani.” In addition to performing with the Afiara Quartet, he is active in collaborating with directors of several of up-and-coming chamber music festivals including the Geneva Music Festival (genevamusicfestival.com) and the humanitarian initiative “Music Feeds Us” (musicfeedsus.org).
Off the clock, Mr. Wong enjoys cooking and classic television.
Adrian Fung is an arts executive, award-winning cellist, educator, and producer of critically acclaimed projects. He is Vice President for Innovation at the Toronto Symphony Orchestra where he leads the TSO’s activities in artistic, social, and economic innovation. Adrian’s work includes digital innovation in an immersive e-learning platform and TSO’s Canada Mosaic, an unprecedented year-long celebration of Canadian music for the country’s 150th anniversary. Chosen by the Government of Canada as a Signature Initiative, this historic project reaches an audience of 8.23 million and consists of over 50 commissions with over 40 partner orchestras. In addition to his role at the TSO, Adrian has held positions as Artistic Director of Mooredale Concerts and Consulting Artistic Director of Festival of the Sound. For his work as both artist and executive, he was recognized as one of Musical America’s 30 Innovators of the Year.
As the founding cellist of the critically acclaimed Afiara Quartet, Adrian is a winner of the Concert Artist Guild International Competition, Young Canadian Musicians Award, 2nd prizes at the Munich ARD and Banff International String Quartet Competitions, and the Szekely Prize for Best Interpretation of Beethoven. With the ensemble, he has performed over 600 performances throughout Europe, Asia, Australia, and the Americas.
This season, Adrian teaches music and the business of the arts at The Banff Centre (faculty of the program “The Concert in the 21st Century”) and Pere Lindsay Foundation at HEC Montreal School of Business. Aside from his teaching at The Juilliard School as a teaching assistant to the celebrated Juilliard String Quartet, Adrian has also led masterclasses at schools such as Escola de Música do Estado de São Paulo, Indiana University’s Summer String Academy, San Francisco State University, the Yehudi Menuhin Seminar, Chamber Music of the Rockies, among others.
Adrian holds a Bachelor’s from the San Francisco Conservatory and an Artist Diploma from The Juilliard School. In addition, he received an MBA from the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management. One of two nominated by the school and faculty as a graduate who ‘epitomizes excellence’, Adrian was featured in Fortune magazine as Poets & Quant’s Best and Brightest Executive MBAs.