School of Music's Skyros Quartet, April Sun invited to perform in China

(left to right) The Skyros Quartet, April Sun and Paul Barnes.
(left to right) The Skyros Quartet, April Sun and Paul Barnes.

Five student musicians from the School of Music in the Hixson-Lied College of Fine and Performing Arts have been invited to perform next month in Xi'an China, as a part of an official program of activities at the American Exchange Center on the Xi’an Jiaotong University campus.

They also will perform at Zhejiang University City College, UNL's partner university in Hangzhou.

A string quartet of doctoral students -- the members of the Skyros String Quartet -- and senior piano major April Sun will travel with an official delegation from across the University of Nebraska system for about two weeks in early May. Hixson-Lied Professor of Piano Paul Barnes will work as faculty mentor for the students while in China.

“I could not be more excited by this invitation for some of our most accomplished students to enjoy this opportunity to represent our university and system in this way,” School of Music Director John W. Richmond said. “One coincidence that arose only after the invitation to perform came to our students was the discovery that April Sun's mother is from Xi'an, China, and April still has family there.

"Additionally, Hixson-Lied Professor Paul Barnes has experience as a performing artist and master teacher in China, so his mentorship of our students there will build upon not only his considerable expertise as an artist and teacher, but also his relevant experiences in China,” Richmond said.

The Skyros String Quartet includes Sarah Pizzichemi, violin, from Seattle, Wash.; James Moat, violin, from Toronto, Ontario; Justin Kurys, viola, from Timmins, Ontario; and William Braun, cello, from Tucson, Ariz. Founded in 2010, Skyros received Masters in Chamber Music performance from the University of Texas at Austin.

They began at UNL this fall with support from the Hixson-Lied Endowment.

The Skyros has performed extensively in Austin and Lincoln, as well as internationally, including a performance at the Chancellor’s State of the University address last September. They frequently lead community-engagement programs, enabling them to inspire audiences of all ages and musical backgrounds.

Sun, a native of Bozeman, Mont., is pursuing a Bachelor of Arts degree in piano performance with Barnes. Sun has attended several international summer music festivals, including the Brevard Music Center, Easter Music Festival and Oxford Arts Centre, and received top prizes in numerous solo, chamber and concerto competitions. She has performed with the Bozeman; Great Falls, S.D.; and UNL Symphonic Orchestras, and the Chiara String Quartet.

Barnes is Hixson-Lied Professor and co-chair of piano in the School of Music, where he has taught since 1995. He teaches during the summer at the Bösendorfer International Piano Academy in Vienna and also coaches the students of his own teacher, Menahem Pressler, at Indiana University, where he received his doctorate in piano performance.

Barnes was named Teacher of the Year by the Nebraska Music Teachers Association in 2006. He has electrified audiences with his intensely expressive playing and cutting-edge programming. He has recently performed in England, China, Korea, Russia, Czech Republic, Austria and Greece, and in all major cities throughout the United States.

“I’m thrilled that both my student April Sun and the Skyros Quartet have this opportunity to travel and perform in China,” Barnes said. “It will be my personal pleasure to accompany them.

"I did my last sabbatical in China and know this will be a life-changing experience for everyone involved.”