Stephen Cassamenos and his trio of young musicians have pulled all the right strings to become finalists in a million dollar Asian-Pacific Music competition.

The Asia-Pacific Chamber Music Competition 2009, to be held in July in Melbourne, not only offers lucrative financial incentives but offers young talented string quartet musicians and piano trios a platform to take their musical careers to the next level.

Cassamenos, 23, who plays the piano and the other members of the Yarra Trio, Jess Ipkendanz (violin) and Chris Howlett (Cello) could not be more thrilled.

“It will be a wonderful opportunity to perform at the Melbourne Recital Centre and to really enjoy ourselves,” he said.

“We will perform three pieces, one of them that I wrote myself. It is the latest in a series of 24 pieces based on the 24 books of Homer’s epic poem The Illiad.

Cassamenos said that his piece, Tableau No. 12 is inspired by a passage which describes the Trojan hero, Hector, surrounded by the enemy, revelling in his strength, but despite being attacked from all sides; “His glorious heart feels no fear nor fright, and it is his courage that kills him.”

“I am fascinated by this theme of glorious yet fatal courage, and in the piece I attempt to shed some light on its paradoxical nature.”

The Yarra Trio, formed by Cassamenos and Howlett two years ago, has had had numerous successes and won several awards, including the 2007 University of Melbourne Alumni Chamber Music Prize and the Australian Arts Council Buzz Grant.

As well as staging performances all over the country, The Yarra Trio are touring regional communities and primary schools as part of their program, Props for Preps to encourage and educate the next generation of musicians and audiences.

“We play concerts for young children, including some of our own repertoire and also songs that they would know. We also play pieces that sound like particular animals and ask them if they can guess the animal, and give them little straws so that they can come out and conduct us. They get pretty excited about it.”

The Yarra Trio have dedicated much of their energy to fundraising activities, including raising over $7500 last year in support of music therapy and pain management services for The Royal Children’s Hospital.

Currently, they are focused on competing in the Trio Di Trieste music concert in Italy next month.

“It is the first international competition that we have performed in as a trio, with Jess only joining us this year. We are thrilled at the opportunity and at the moment we are preparing frantically for it!”

NKEE wishes The Yarra Trio the best of luck.