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Brian Isaacs



Instrument: Viola




Brian Isaacs, 23, grew up in Queens, New York City and started playing the violin at age four. After switching to viola in 2014 and graduating from LaGuardia High School in 2018, Brian began his academic studies at Yale College, where he recently graduated cum laude and received a B.A. in Sociology (Int.) with Distinction in the Major. He is continuing his studies at the Yale School of Music, pursuing his M.M. ('23) as a student of Ettore Causa. Starting September 2023, Brian will be based in Berlin as a scholarship-holder of the Karajan-Akademie der Berliner Philharmoniker. 


An aspiring viola soloist, Brian recently attended the Soloists program of the 2022 Verbier Festival Academy. He has been a semi-finalist at the Primrose, Prague Spring, and Kodaly International Competitions, and a prizewinner in the 2019 Anton Rubinstein International Viola Competition. In addition to winning both the School of Music's Woolsey Hall and the College's William Waite Concerto Competitions at Yale, Brian has also received the Wrexham Prize in Music, “awarded annually to that senior who, as a performer, has best exemplified the standards of Quincy Porter”, the Joseph Lentilhon Selden Memorial Award, given “to students especially notable for their contribution in the field of music” as well as the Terry E. and Irene A. Sharp Prize, awarded “to the most outstanding performer in the junior class in recognition of their fine musicianship and potential in the field of classical music”. He has performed as a soloist in masterclasses for artists including Misha Amory, Yuri Bashmet, Noemie Bialobroda, Alfred Brendel, Isabel Charisius, Nobuko Imai, Jeffrey Irvine, Lawrence Power, Thomas Riebl, Nadia Sirota & Nico Muhly, Steve Tenenbom, Lars Anders Tomter, and Tabea Zimmermann. His pre-college teachers include Barbera Berg, Molly Carr, Caeli Smith, and Jonathan Weber. 


Brian has been fortunate to perform chamber music around the world with remarkable musicians. Most recently, he traveled to South Korea in September 2022 for chamber music concerts in Seoul, Gimhae, and Heyri. Brian participated in numerous chamber music festivals in the summer of 2022, including the Viridian Strings (USA), NUME Festival and Academy (Italy), Geneva International String Academy (Switzerland), Verbier Festival Academy (Switzerland), Moritzburg Festival Academy (Germany), and Thy Chamber Music Festival (Denmark). He has performed with distinguished artists including Peter Bruns, Jose Gallardo, Annette von Hehn, Mihae Lee, Mi-kyung Lee, and Tony Nys. In previous summers, Brian attended the Taos School of Music, Maine Chamber Music Seminar, and NEXT Festival of Emerging Artists. At Taos, Brian received numerous chamber coachings from Misha Amory, Robert McDonald, Mai Motobuchi, Nicholas Tzavaras, and additional members of the Borromeo, Brentano, and Shanghai string quartets. He has performed in chamber music masterclasses for artists such as Simone Dinnerstein, Augustin Dumay, Lynn Harrell, Mathieu Herzog, Joel Krosnick, Michaela Martin, Fred Sherry, Gabor Takacs-Nagy, and Roger Tapping. Brian has been coached at Yale by Melvin Chen, Nina Lee, Don Palma, Wendy Sharp, Mark Steinberg, and members of the Omer and Rolston string quartets. 


An avid orchestral musician, Brian served as a section violist in the New Haven Symphony Orchestra from 2019-23, joining at the time as its youngest member. As a scholarship-holder of the Karajan Academy, he will participate in numerous performances of the Berliner Philharmoniker over the 2023-24 and 2024-25 seasons. Brian has additionally served as principal violist with the Yale Philharmonia and with several renowned youth orchestras including NYO-USA, in which he participated in concert tours across Asia and Europe, the Moritzburg Festival Orchestra, New York Youth Symphony, and the Yale Symphony Orchestra, the latter of which he performed with in Spring 2022 as the soloist in Walton's Viola Concerto and in Spring 2021 as the soloist in Britten’s Lachrymae for viola and string orchestra. In addition, Brian attended the 2018 and 2019 New York String Orchestra Seminars and the 2020 Detroit Symphony Orchestra Summer Institute. 


Brian will be competing in the ARD International Viola Competition this coming September. He looks forward this summer to returning to the Viridian Strings, Geneva International String Academy, and Verbier Festival Academy and participating for the first time in the Four Seasons Chamber Music Spring Workshop and Gstaad Menuhin Festival String Academy. 


Brian plays on a 2011 Douglas Cox viola, on generous loan from the Virtu Foundation.

Hear him play




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