Meet the Members of the Pittsburgh Cello Quartet

Photo by Gary Adams

Bronwyn Banerdt

Bronwyn Banerdt joined the cello section of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra in 2014. She made her solo debut with Los Angeles Philharmonic in 2002 and has since appeared in concert throughout the United States, Europe, Russia, and southern Africa.  Notable solo appearances include performances with the Pittsburgh Symphony, Houston Symphony, Albany Symphony, and the world premiere of Poem for Cello & Orchestra by Michael Kamen.  At age 15 Banerdt was personally invited by the world-renowned composer John Rutter to perform the solo from his Requiem in Carnegie Hall.  Banerdt was awarded Grand Prize at the Los Angeles Philharmonic’s Bronislaw Kaper Awards, and she has also captured top prizes at the Houston Symphony Ima Hogg Competition and Kingsville Music Competition.

Equally passionate about chamber music and orchestral performance, Banerdt has co-founded two uniquely focused chamber music ensembles with other members of the Pittsburgh Symphony.  The Clarion Quartet specializes in Entartete Musik — music written by oppressed composers — and seeks to bring light to artists whose legacies would be silenced.  The Pittsburgh Cello Quartet offers an eclectic mix from classical to pop and rock in unique arrangements for four cellos.  Banerdt has collaborated with renowned artists such as Kim Kashkashian and Mitsuko Uchida, and members of the Emerson, Guarneri, Juilliard, Borodin, and Orion string quartets.  She has performed at numerous chamber music festivals including Marlboro Music and Music from Angel Fire.  Banerdt serves as Artist Lecturer in Chamber Music at Carnegie Mellon University.

A native of Los Angeles, Banerdt earned her Bachelor’s Degree at age 19 from the USC Thornton School of Music, where she studied with Ronald Leonard.  She subsequently studied at The Curtis Institute of Music under the tutelage of David Soyer and received her Master’s Degree from The Juilliard School with Richard Aaron.

Photo by Michael Shane

Michael DeBruyn

Cellist Michael DeBruyn joined the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra during the 2013-2014 season. Prior to joining the Pittsburgh Symphony, DeBruyn was principal cellist of the Louisville Orchestra. He holds a Bachelor of Music degree and a Master of Music degree from the Cleveland Institute of Music.

DeBruyn grew up in Nashville, TN, and began studying the cello at the age of four. His former teachers include Dr. Felix Wang, Dr. Tanya Carey, Richard Aaron and Desmond Hoebig. His summer engagements have included the Meadowmount School of Music, the Sarasota Music Festival, the Kneisel Hall Chamber Music Festival and the Aspen Music Festival.

As a chamber musician, DeBruyn has worked closely with members of the Arianna, Pacifica, Cavani and Cleveland Quartets. In 1998, he received an honorable mention in the Fischoff National Chamber Music Competition as a member of the Blakemore Quartet. DeBruyn and his wife, Francesca Tortorello, have been performing together as a professional duo since 2004.

Photo by Peter Kahn

Charlie Powers

Charlie Powers’ playing has been described by The Washington Post as “poised, elegant, supple of phrasing and mellow of tone.” He joined the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra's cello section during the 2013-2014 season. He previously served as Assistant Principal of “The President’s Own” U.S. Marine Chamber Orchestra in Washington, D.C., and performed regularly at the White House, the State Department, the Library of Congress, the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, and the Vice President’s residence.

Since making his solo debut at age 17, Powers has appeared with orchestras throughout the United States and abroad. Notable performances include Samuel Barber’s Cello Concerto with the U.S. Marine Chamber Orchestra and Brahms’ Double Concerto with the Kaohsiung City Symphony Orchestra in Taiwan. A proponent of new music, Powers has recently performed works for cello and orchestra by Aulis Sallinen and Jennifer Higdon.

Powers is a founding member of two critically acclaimed chamber ensembles, the Teiber String Trio and The Phillips Camerata, as well as the recently formed Pittsburgh Cello Quartet. He has collaborated with such renowned artists as Yo-Yo Ma, Ricardo Morales and Peter Wiley. He received the Karl Zeise Memorial Cello Award at Tanglewood, where he served as principal cellist of the Tanglewood Music Center orchestra under James Levine. Other festival appearances include Banff, Heifetz, Aria, Icicle Creek and the 2000 World Cello Congress.

A native of Tacoma, Washington, Powers began his cello studies at age three with Jeannette Chapman. He graduated with honors from the New England Conservatory of Music, where he was a Piatigorsky Scholarship recipient and studied with Colin Carr. Other influential teachers include John Michel, Richard Aaron, David Wells and Michael Mermagen.

Alexandra Thompson

Alexandra Thompson joined the Pittsburgh Symphony during the 2014-2015 season. After graduating in 2011 from the Cleveland Institute of Music, where she studied with Stephen Geber, she began a three-year fellowship with the New World Symphony in Miami Beach, Florida. Fellowship highlights include a chamber performance with the Miró Quartet and cello quartet performance led by Vienna Philharmonic principal cellist, Tamás Varga. Thompson spent her summers at the Tanglewood Music Center, Spoleto Festival USA, National Repertory Orchestra, International Festival-Institute at Roundtop, Credo Chamber Music and Interlochen Arts Camp. 

A native of Pittsburgh, she was involved in chamber groups and orchestras of the following local organizations:  Pittsburgh Youth Symphony Orchestra, Three Rivers Young Peoples Orchestras, Pittsburgh Symphony EQT Student Side-by-Side, Pennsylvania Music Educators Association and City Music Center.  She was a winner of the Duquesne Young Artist and Pittsburgh Concert Society Young Artist Competitions.