Ayano Ninomiya, recognized as a “rising star” by classical music organizations, is joining the Ying Quartet as the Grammy-winning ensemble’s first violinist.
As the new member of the Ying Quartet, Ninomiya is joining the group’s siblings and founding members, cellist David, violist Phillip, and violinist Janet. She will also be appointed to the faculty of the Eastman School of Music, where the ensemble is the string-quartet-in-residence.
“Ayano is a fantastic, first-class musician, well known to us and so many others in the music world,” said David Ying. “The creative, broad way she views music-making as well as her desire to view art in a wider societal context particularly resonates with Janet, Phillip, and me. We’re so excited to play and work with her.”
Ninomiya was the second-prize winner of the 2003 Walter W. Naumburg International Violin Competition. Praised for her dazzling technique, pure tone, and intensity of expression, she has built a wide-ranging professional career encompassing solo appearances with orchestras in Europe and the United States, chamber music performances, research, and outreach programs.
The Ying Quartet is acclaimed around the world for its communicative performances, appearing in concerts and festivals such as Aspen, Tanglewood, Ravinia, Caramoor, San Miguel De Allende, Kneisel Hall, and many others. The ensemble is also known for its view of chamber music as a meaningful part of everyday life, which has fueled the quartet’s diverse array of musical projects and its outreach to audiences in settings from the White House to schools and the workplace. At the Eastman School, the Quartet teaches in the string department and leads a rigorous chamber music program. An integral part of the chamber music curriculum is the Music for All program, in which students perform in community settings beyond the concert hall.
The Ying Quartet has worked on collaborative projects at Symphony Space in New York City and with musical partners such as pianist Menahem Pressler, cellist Paul Katz, and folk musician Mike Seeger, among others. Its album 4 + Four, recorded with the Turtle Island String Quartet, received a 2006 Grammy Award for best classical crossover album. The group also received a Grammy nomination for best chamber music performance for its 2007 album, Tchaikovsky: Three String Quartets, Souvenir de Florence. The Quartet also released Dim Sum, a recording of music by Chinese-American composers.
Committed to expanding the string quartet repertoire, the Ying Quartet created the ongoing LifeMusic project. Supported by the Institute for American Music, the Quartet has commissioned established and emerging composers to produce a distinctively American string quartet repertory and has produced two recordings of LifeMusic works, The Ying Quartet Plays LifeMusic and The United States.
An enthusiastic chamber musician, Ninomiya said, “I think there is nothing richer than a musical conversation represented in a chamber music work where every voice is individual but all the voices speak towards the same purpose: the same musical idea.” She has spent several seasons at the Caramoor, Bridgehampton, Olympic, and other festivals, and joined the Musicians from Marlboro for the group’s 2004 U.S. tour and 2005 tour of France. She has performed with the Momenta String Quartet and the Formosa String Quartet in Singapore and across the United States, and with the Daedalus Quartet at Juneau’s Jazz and Classics Festival. She also has been a member of the Australian-based TinAlley String Quartet and the conductorless string ensemble ECCO (East Coast Chamber Orchestra.)
Born in Takamatsu, Japan, Ninomiya came to the United States when she was one year old. Her experience studying violin in a public school program fueled her interest in giving community and children’s programs along with her professional concerts. Ninomiya has created lecture-recital programs and taught classes for Elderhostel, an educational and travel organization for adults aged 55 and over. She also has been a volunteer tutor for at-risk high school students and a volunteer teacher assistant at the Lighthouse Music School in New York City.
Ninomiya has recorded The Book of Moonlight, a CD of works by Larry Bell, and chamber music by Paul Moravec for the Bridgehampton Music Festival. She has appeared as a soloist with orchestras in Budapest, Sofia, and Martigny in Europe, and in the United States with the Boston, Harrisburg, Mobile, Dubuque, Northbrook, and Southwest Florida symphonies and the Boston Pops and Civic Symphony of Boston.
Ninomiya graduated magna cum laude from Harvard College with a joint degree in Music and French in 2001. She holds a master’s degree from The Juilliard School. As the recipient of the 2005 Frank Huntington Beebe Fellowship for advanced music study and performance, Ninomiya studied at the Liszt Academy of Music in Budapest and researched scores at the Bartok Archives.
In the Ying Quartet, Ninomiya replaces former first violinist Frank Huang, who received an appointment as concertmaster of the Houston Symphony.
“This is an incredible opportunity and I am so looking forward to performing with the Ying Quartet and being a part of their creative musical and performing career, and to have lively discussions with them about musical ideas and future projects!” said Ninomiya.
“Even though I think we share a common approach to musical life, Ayano will undoubtedly bring her own fresh perspective to the Quartet, which will be very exciting,” said David Ying. “We’re definitely looking forward to the adventure.”