Residency / Merita

A unique and innovative talent development program

The SQBA Residency is a unique and innovative talent development
program for young string quartets to explore, think, nurture and discover.
Four weeks, spread over a period of one and a half years, the SQBA
Residency offers young string quartets a space to tap into their own
creativity; to explore, develop and define a perspective which reflects the
unique identity of the individual players and the ensemble.

During the SQBA Residency the main focus will be on the interactive
relationship between each individual musician and the ensemble. We
believe that musical performance is more than the technical mastery of
one’s instrument. Not until the individual persona of each member can
develop freely and the whole person behind the musician can connect
with the ensemble, the quartet will organically develop its own identity.
The Residency weeks are a testing ground with ample scope for
reflection and exploration. The participating quartets are about to embark
on their professional careers, the musicians are all between twenty-five
and thirty-five years of age. They are subjected to an intense programme
and they are given their own say in the composition of workshops and
masterclasses. The tutors, all experienced musicians, professionals and
speakers, come from a string quartet background or from other
disciplines and professions, such as dance, embodiment and outreach.


With this programme, we feel the Biennale can see inside of our shared quartet brain and knows exactly what we need.

Belinfante Quartet, the Netherlands

From the SQBA Residency we expect that which we could not expect from real life: a string quartet lab where the boundaries are limitless, a place where knowledge is deepened and our human and artistic values will soar to heights not reached before.

Quarteto Tejo, Portugal

We appreciate that the Residency has such a wide scope. We'd like to concentrate on performing and creating, which is a learning process in itself.

Karski Quartet, Belgium


Where chamber Music, cultural hERItage and TAlent meet.

The SQBA Residency is part of a partnership called MERITA, supported
by the European Union and initiated by Le Dimore del Quartetto.
MERITA is an online and offline platform that increases the visibility
and circulation of emerging European string quartets while promoting
European cultural heritage.

The four objectives of Merita:

  • Promoting the production and diffusion of chamber music in
    Europe through original and special projects.
  • Improving training and development of capabilities of emerging
    chamber music artists on how to effectively expand,
    internationalize and consolidate their careers.
  • Innovate the operation of the chamber music industry by matching
    the demands of musical institutions with the aptitudes of quartets,
    thus creating new job opportunities for young musicians.
  • Promote a sustainable business model that unites emerging
    chamber music artists, audiences, and cultural heritage, fostering
    the exchange of best practices and competitiveness for artists.

Merita in numbers:

  • 17 organisations from 12 countries
  • 38 string quartest with 152 musicians
  • 156 concerts
  • 30 historic houses
  • 3 years

Who is this project for:

  • Professional string quartets composed of members between the
    ages of 18 and 35, who play together on a permanent basis.
  • Audiences: the projects and concerts generated by the platform
    aim to attract a variety of different and new audiences, allowing
    everyone to experience classical music.
  • Music institutions: these cultural centres for the community have
    the responsibility to support the careers of new musicians, to
    preserve the tradition and precious legacy of classical music as well as
    the need to innovate the proposal and modes of enjoyment.
  • Europe’s historic houses and cultural sites, finding an innovative
    way to experience their spaces, opening up to artists and
    audiences in a sustainable model.

The digital platform:

All project activities are carried out with the digital platform as the main
area for artist showcase, presentation of heritage, networking and
content for the public, panel of online and on-site activities, like trainings,
art residencies, international circulation of young artists, studies and

Discover more and follow the development of the platform!

SQBA Residency & Merita

Three String quartets will participate in each Residency, at least one will be a Dutch ensemble. The first week of the SQBA Residency will be dedicated to the European Merita project.

The call for applications for the Residency /Merita  2023-2024 is now closed. The final selection will be presented in February 2023

Are you interested? E-mail Elisabeth Gierveld for more information:



Together with the artistic team of the String Quartet Biennale, our main
tutors Mark Withers, Annette Walther, and Ivar Berix shape the
programme of the SQBA Residency.

The guest tutors for the next residency will be Tabea
Zimmerman (viola player and teacher), Jonathan Brown (viola Casals
Quartet), Francisca Rijken (embodiment and stage presentations), among others.


The biggest secret to making music is learning how to listen.

Ivar Berix

The SQBA Residency provides a wonderful opportunity to explore the inner game of string quartet playing together with these promising young quartets.

Annette Walther (Signum Quartett)

String quartets have so much to give to and to receive from the society that surrounds them. It is a privilege to help these young quartets in finding dynamic paths for their development, even more so in the incredibly rich context of the String Quartet Biennale Amsterdam.

Mark Withers

Mark Withers

Clarinettist Mark Withers performs old music and creates new music working alongside the widest possible range of musicians. He has collaborated with numerous orchestras and opera companies in his own country and abroad.
Mark has a special interest in music for people with sickness and disability. He designs and leads creative education and outreach projects as well as training programmes for artists working in the field. He has directed work for, amongst others, Accentus, the Association of British Orchestras, the Association of French Orchestras, English National Opera, Fundació “La Caixa”, Glyndebourne, Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment and the Academy of the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra.
Mark has helped to establish new creative education programmes with ensembles including the Hallé Orchestra, the Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France and the Orquesta Nacional de España and he currently directs ongoing programmes with the London Symphony Orchestra and the Festival d’Aix.
Mark has played a central role in the establishment of the new SQBA Residency.

Ivar Berix

From 1987 on, Ivar was the clarinetist of the reed quintet Calefax. A close-knit ensemble that has maintained a reputation for more than 35 years on the basis of virtuoso playing, brilliant arrangements and a fresh stage presentation. In 2020 Ivar left the group after 33 successful years and has been sharing all the experience and inspiration he has gained ever since.
He does so in the role of ensemble coach, team coach and listening coach. Ivar focuses in particular on collaboration and everything involved: in what way do people listen and communicate, which role patterns are adopted in the process, how to deal with tension or disagreement, how to jointly achieve a “together” and convincing performance.

Annette Walther (Signum Quartett)

Annette Walther is a founding member and second violin of the renowned Signum Quartet. In addition to her career with the Signum Quartet, Annette is regularly invited as a violin player to international chamber music festivals. At the beginning of 2016, Annette has been appointed as violin lecturer at the Louis Spohr Music Academy in Kassel and follows her passion of teaching there and by giving masterclasses with great enthusiasm.


The Partners

Koninklijke Visio

The SQBA wants to make an effort to reach out to people who are less
likely to visit a concert venue. We have chosen to make an effort to
target blind and visually impaired people. Listening to (classical) music in
a concert hall is an enriching and unique experience for this group.
Artistic director and founder of the festival, Yasmin Hilberdink, suffers
from a progressive, genetic eye condition. Music will play an increasingly
important role in her life. Her personal situation has prompted the SQBA
to initiate contact with Koninklijke Visio with a view to working together.
The Oogvereniging (Eye Associaton) has joined this ongoing
partnership. Together with these experienced and engaged partners, we
have started making the festival and the Muziekgebouw more accessible
and user-friendly for the blind and visually impaired. The same applies to
our website and other communication tools, such as the newsletter and
programme booklets.
The collaboration resulted in a special programme. During the first SQBA
residency, the three participating quartets worked with twelve blind
amateur singers, during a workshop with outreach expert Mark Withers.
The main focus was on developing mutual trust and intuition as well
listening to each other. The final result is the co-production Trust Me, by
the Belinfante Quartet, the Karski Quartet and twelve blind amateur
singers, which will be performed during the 2024 festival.

The collaboration with the Koninklijke Visio will be continued in the SQBA
Residency to come.