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 attended at Yale University, where he received his MM in Viola Performance studying with Ettore Causa and his BA in Sociology. Starting September 2023, Brian will be based in Berlin as a member of the Karajan-Akademie der Berliner Philharmoniker. He is generously supported by a 2023-24 grant from the Frank Huntington Beebe Fund.
An aspiring viola soloist, Brian recently attended the Soloists program of the 2022 Verbier Festival Academy and will be returning in 2023. He is a prizewinner of the 2019 Anton Rubinstein International Viola Competition and has been a semi-finalist at the Primrose, Prague Spring, and Kodaly International Competitions. 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, the Joseph Lentilhon Selden Memorial Award, as well as the Terry E. and Irene A. Sharp Prize. He has appeared as a soloist with the Yale Symphony Orchestra, performing the Walton Viola Concerto and Britten Lachrymae under the direction of William Boughton, and will perform the Martinu Rhapsody-Concerto with the Yale Philharmonia under Peter Oundjian in April 2024. Brian has performed as a soloist in masterclasses for artists including Misha Amory, Yuri Bashmet, Noemie Bialobroda, Alfred Brendel, Nobuko Imai, Lawrence Power, Nadia Sirota & Nico Muhly, Steven 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. In September 2022, he traveled to South Korea and performed 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). In previous summers, he attended the Taos School of Music, Maine Chamber Music Seminar, and NEXT Festival of Emerging Artists. At Taos, Brian received numerous chamber coachings from Robert McDonald and members of the Borromeo, Brentano, and Shanghai string quartets. He has performed with distinguished artists including Peter Bruns, Jose Gallardo, Annette von Hehn, Mihae Lee, Mi-kyung Lee, and Tony Nys. While at Yale, Brian was in a string quartet with violinists Anna Lee and Andrew Samarasekara and cellist Jake Taylor, performing in numerous concerts and events throughout the University between 2021-23. 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 will participate in numerous performances of the Berliner Philharmoniker over the 2023-24 and 2024-25 seasons as a scholarship-holder of the Karajan Academy. He served as a section violist in the New Haven Symphony Orchestra from 2019-23, joining at the time as its youngest member. 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. 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.
(updated 26 May 2023)