Sydney Lee and Brannon Cho will join the McDuffie Center for Strings as cello professors, while Sihao He departs for the Tianjin Juilliard School and the Shanghai Quartet

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Cho photo: Grittani Creative. He photo: Daniel Delang

Cellists Brannon Cho and Sydney Lee (left and centre) will join the faculty, while Sihao He (right) will join the Tianjian Juilliard School and the Shanghai Quartet

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The Robert McDuffie Center for Strings in Mercer University’s School of Music has announced that cellists Sydney Lee and Brannon Cho have been appointed as new cello professors, joining faculty member Hans Jørgen Jensen. 

Lee is a founding member of the Galvin Cello Quartet and will begin teaching for the 2024-25 season. Cho is a first prize winner of the sixth International Paulo Cello Competition and will begin teaching in 2025-26.

The appointments are made as existing distinguished artist and cello professor at the McDuffie Center Sihao He joins the Tianjin Juilliard School and its resident ensmble the Shanghai Quartet in the upcoming 2024-25 season. In addition to his work with the Shanghai Quartet, He hopes to build a relationship between the McDuffie Center and Tianjin Juilliard, which will help cultivate the next generation of young artists who come to the McDuffie Center and beyond.

As He joins the Shanghai Quartet, comprising violinists Weigang Li and Angelo Xiang Yu and violist Honggang Li, he replaces cellist Nicholas Tzavaras, who will step down at the end of the 2023-24 season, returning to North America to devote more time to his family.

’I am honoured to have considered the Shanghai Quartet my musical home for the past 24 years and feel privileged to have played a contributing role in its first four decades of performances,’ said Tzavaras. ’With Sihao joining the quartet, I am confident that his addition will be exceptional in every respect and eagerly anticipate hearing them in performance next fall.’

’I want to congratulate Sihao He on becoming the new cellist of the wonderful Shanghai Quartet and the new cello teacher at the Tianjin Juilliard School,’ said Jensen, who is also professor of cello at Northwestern University’s Bienen School of Music and a faculty member of the Glenn Gould School of Music in Toronto.

Jensen was reappointed to the McDuffie Center faculty in 2023 alongside the appointment of He, who is a former student of Jensen. ’I am excited to teach alongside Brannon Cho and Sydney Lee, both terrific cellists and wonderful teachers. I look forward to having many opportunities to keep working together with Sihao He in the future.’

’Teaching at the McDuffie Center for Strings, my alma mater, has been a profound honour,’ said He. ’As a young cellist, I chose the McDuffie Center believing it would mark the beginning of my musical career.

’Though I will no longer be there in person, the McDuffie Center will forever be regarded as family. I sincerely look forward to the future collaborations and achievements of McDuffie, Tianjin Juilliard and the Shanghai Quartet, along with the next generation of young musicians at both institutions.

’I have always admired the Shanghai Quartet for being a trailblazer in chamber music in China for over 40 years. Returning to my roots after nearly a decade of studying and performing in the United States, I have come full circle.’

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