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September 29, 2021

Cleveland Native and Legendary Chamber Musician Philip Setzer Recruited as Artistic Director of String Chamber Music


Philip Setzer (top) and Si-Yan Darren Li (bottom)

Emerson Quartet violinist to lead world-renowned program into Institute’s second century

Si-Yan Darren Li promoted to program director; will work in partnership with Setzer to empower student artistry

Cleveland native Philip Setzer, violinist of the esteemed Emerson Quartet and violin faculty member at the Cleveland Institute of Music, has been named Artistic Director of String Chamber Music at CIM. Setzer begins his new duties immediately.

With Setzer’s appointment and Si-Yan Darren Li’s promotion to program director of string chamber music, CIM deepens its commitment to student success in its string chamber music program. Already the premier chamber music development program in the world, Setzer and Li will build upon CIM’s career development programs and performance opportunities for all string students.

“CIM has a storied history as a center of chamber music excellence, and with the addition of Phil Setzer and the promotion of Si-Yan Darren Li, we will further leverage our strengths – our distinguished faculty, master classes with visiting artists and our conservatory students themselves – to raise the chamber music bar even higher for CIM students,” explained CIM President & CEO Paul W. Hogle. “Along with the recent appointment of distinguished conductor Carlos Kalmar as director of orchestral studies and principal conductor, CIM is ensuring that our students are leaders as both individual musicians and in all ensemble settings.”

“I had the fortune of studying with great teachers throughout my student years, including Josef Gingold, Oscar Shumsky, Robert Mann and [then-CIM artist-in-residence] Rafael Druian,” added Setzer, who also has performed for 15 years with Wu Han and David Finckel in an eponymous piano trio. “Without the mentorship, coaching and collaboration of those musicians and many more, I would not be where I am today. I want to hand down that legacy to CIM’s students, and I look forward to working in partnership with Si-Yan to create unparalleled chamber music experiences at CIM.”

The chamber music program at CIM has a foundation in collaboration – with faculty, visiting artists and colleagues – that has produced international touring collaborative artists, medal winners in the Fischoff Chamber Music Competition, multiple GRAMMY Awards, and ensemble members including those in the Miró Quartet, Dalí Quartet, Project Trio, Silkroad Ensemble and Callisto Quartet, among others. With a supportive environment that motivates students to perform at the highest level, CIM ensembles are coached by a team of faculty, led by Li, as well as cellist Sharon Robinson, pianist Anita Pontremoli and violinist Todd Phillips among others, and regularly present live music to the community in local museums, schools, senior centers and hospitals. Setzer envisions the string chamber music program even more deeply connected to the Institute's large ensembles and programs, working with the CIM Orchestra, Opera Theater and New Music Ensemble, to develop and present creative projects that enhance student artistry and engage audiences in exploration.

A native of Cleveland, Philip Setzer grew up around The Cleveland Orchestra as his parents were musicians in the orchestra and he took lessons from the orchestra’s concertmaster. He is a founding member of the Emerson String Quartet, and was a major prizewinner in the Marjorie Merriweather Post Competition in Washington, DC, and the Queen Elisabeth International Competition in Brussels, and has appeared with the National Symphony, Cleveland Orchestra, Memphis Symphony and Puerto Rico Symphony among others. Setzer is the mastermind behind Emerson’s two highly praised collaborative theater productions focused on Shostakovich, including The Noise of Time (2001) and Shostakovich and the Black Monk: A Russian Fantasy. Also a distinguished professor of violin and chamber music at SUNY Stony Brook, he is the director of the Shouse Institute, the teaching division of the Great Lakes Chamber Music Festival in Detroit. Setzer has served as visiting faculty at CIM since 2018 and was appointed to the faculty earlier this year. He also serves as professor of violin at Stony Brook University.

Si-Yan Darren Li made his professional debut at the age of nine and has since gone on to an international career as a recitalist, chamber musician and teacher. He has appeared in solo and chamber music performances at Carnegie Hall’s Stern Auditorium, Weill Recital Hall, Alice Tully Hall, Merkin Hall, 92nd Street Y, Kennedy Center, Victoria Concert Hall in Singapore, Izumi Hall in Osaka, Suntory Hall in Tokyo and National Concert Hall in Taipei. Li has also performed in many renowned music festivals, including the Ravinia Festival, Kronberg Academy Cello Festival and Verbier Festival, and is a prizewinner in numerous prestigious competitions, including the Tchaikovsky International Competition in Moscow and Young Concert Artists International Auditions in New York. Since joining the CIM faculty in 2017, he has coached string quartets to top prizes in the Banff, Bordeaux, Melbourne and Wigmore Hall International String Quartet Competitions, as well as the grand prize in the Fischoff Chamber Music Competition.

Photo of Philip Setzer by Jürgen Frank.