Pianists Vijay Venkatesh (’23) and Paul Williamson (’23), two dazzling young artists with an already impressive list of awards, performances, and critical acclaim to their credit, are the 2023 recipients of grants from the Amron-Sutherland Fund
Established through the estates of siblings Bruce and Mitzi Sutherland, Colburn’s Amron-Sutherland Fund provides financial support for recently graduated pianists of the Conservatory of Music beginning their careers. This year, the recipients are Vijay Venkatesh (’23) and Paul Williamson (’23), two dazzling young artists with an already impressive list of competition wins, professional appearances, album releases, and critical acclaim to their credit.
Hailed by the Herald-Tribune for his “dazzling pianism verging on the impossible, effortless technical command and authority with a sense of poetry and refinement that belies his years,” Indian-American pianist Vijay Venkatesh has been recognized on three continents as a pianist with profound musicianship, sparkling pianism and an innate sense of partnership. Venkatesh, whose playing is described as “fresh and inspired,” (Cincinnati Courier) has rapidly established a major international reputation as top prizewinner in the San Jose, Seattle, Zimmerli, World Piano, and Waring International Piano Competitions.
Included in CBC Music’s 2017 edition of “30 Hot Canadian Classical Musicians under 30,” Paul Williamson has established himself as one of Canada’s promising young pianists. He received first prize at both the 2014 Canadian National Music Festival and the 2017 Canadian Federation of Music Teachers’ Association National Piano Competition in addition to three semifinal awards. He is also a prizewinner of the 2020 WMC McLellan Competition and received 3rd prize at the 2022 Shean Piano Competition and the 2023 Bader and Overton Canadian Piano Competition.
The Amron-Sutherland Fund was created through the generosity of Bruce Sutherland, a pianist, composer, and teacher. His performances and compositions took him around the country, but he lived most of his life in Santa Monica, California, working with a loyal studio of students, including Diane Baker, Rufus Choi, Hyongsoon Kim, Max Levinson, Anders Martinson, and John Novacek. Bruce was honored by the White House Commission on Presidential Scholars as a “Distinguished Teacher.”
During Bruce’s life, he observed with great intimacy the difficulty even the most talented conservatory graduates experienced as they worked to achieve a viable piano career. He worked with Colburn to establish the Amron-Sutherland Fund, with the intention that his estate would fund an endowment at Colburn after his and his sister Mitzi’s death. Read more about the 2023 grantees below.
Highlights of Vijay Venkatesh‘s upcoming season include debuts with the Lancaster Symphony in 3 performances of Rachmaninoff Concerto No. 3 in D Minor with Michael Butterman, Orchestra Santa Monica in Beethoven’s Emperor with Roger Kalia, and at Le Salon de Musiques. Additionally, he appears this season at the Boston Court Theatre, Gracie Theatre, DaCamera Society, Athena Foundation for the Arts, Kultur unter’m Dach, L’ermitage Foundation, Highlands-Cashiers Music Festival, Emory Chamber Music Society, ProMusica San Miguel de Allende, and more.
An immersive and versatile soloist, Venkatesh has performed extensively across the United States and Europe as soloist with the symphony orchestras of Seattle, Vienna, Sarasota, Pasadena, Columbus, Cincinnati, Bangor, Redlands, Roanoke, LaGrange, Rogue Valley, and the Brevard Music Center. He has collaborated with preeminent conductors James Conlon, Carlos Miguel Prieto, Jeffrey Kahane, Ludovic Morlot, Roger Kalia, Joseph Young, Richard Prior, Eckart Preu, Lucas Richman, Ryan Murray, Martin Majkut, Michael Repper, Carolyn Kuan, Toshi Shimada, David Wiley, Ken Lam, and more. Venkatesh appeared in recent seasons at the Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall with the Colburn Orchestra, Chicago’s Dame Myra Hess series, Grand Piano Series in Naples, and at the Aspen, Brevard, Banff, Newport, ProMusica, Redlands Bowl, Sarasota, Vienna, and Music in the Mountains Festivals. As recipient of the inaugural Parnassus Society Prize, he performed in recital at the Soka Performing Arts Center.
An active chamber musician, Venkatesh has appeared twelve times on Le Salon de Musiques at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion and tours as the Vieness Piano Duo with his wife and pianist, Eva Schaumkell. Last season, they appeared for the DaCamera Society, Irvine Performing Arts Center, Trinity Concert Series, Lancaster Performing Arts Center, L’ermitage Foundation, Masters in the Chapel, Muzewest, Opera Steamboat, Ocean Grove Summer Stars Series, Ridgecrest Chamber Music Society, Second City Chamber Series, Sarasota Artist Series, South Bay Chamber Music Series, Westcliffe InConcert Series, and the Kultur unter’m Dach series in Germany. As pianist in the Aristeia Trio, gold medalists of the Frances Walton International Chamber Music Competition, they embarked on a 30-concert tour of Washington, appeared twice on KING-FM 89.1 FM, and have been featured at Camerata Musica and the Irvine Performing Arts Center.
Venkatesh has been named a Davidson Fellow Laureate at the Library of Congress, USC Thornton’s Discovery Scholar, Grand Prize Winner of the Los Angeles Music Center’s Spotlight Awards and featured on Performance Today® with host Fred Child, “What Makes It Great?” with host Robert Kapilow, and NPR’s “From the Top.”
Originally from California, Venkatesh earned an Artist Diploma from the Colburn School in Los Angeles with Fabio Bidini, where he was on the Colburn Artists roster. He holds additional degrees from USC Thornton and IU Jacobs School of Music, where he was a recipient of the Barbara and David Jacobs Fellowship under the tutelage of Norman Krieger and André Watts. Venkatesh previously studied with Jeffrey Kahane, Sarkis Baltaian, Menahem Pressler, and Murray Perahia. His latest recordings include the music of Lucas Richman on Albany Records and a release on Naxos dedicated to Mozart to be released in 2024. He is a featured artist on Tonebase.
Paul Williamson completed his bachelor’s degree from the University of Manitoba, studying under David Moroz. In the first year of his studies, he won both of the school’s competitions: the annual concerto competition and the Lawrence Genser Music Scholarship competition (given to the most outstanding undergraduate performer). Williamson went on to study at the Colburn School under Fabio Bidini, earning a master’s degree and an Artist Diploma. While at Colburn, Williamson also received artistic guidance from Jean-Yves Thibaudet.
Williamson has participated in the Morningside Music Bridge, Aspen, Orford, Music Academy of the West, Scotia, Creative Dialogue XIII, and held a residency at the Avaloch Farm Music Institute. In the spring of 2023, Williamson recorded his debut solo album featuring the music of Franz Liszt for Naxos Records. He has also recorded an album of the music of Canadian composer Tristan Zaba alongside Canadian soprano Mckenzie Warriner for the Centrediscs label.
Williamson is grateful to have his career supported by the Amron-Sutherland Grant for Young Pianists from the Colburn School and for the support of the Manitoba Arts Council and the BC Arts Council.