About the Foundation

The Theme & Variations Foundation is a not-for-profit organisation dedicated to assisting exceptionally talented young Australian pianists to reach their potential.

As there is already a considerable number of piano competitions and piano scholarships in Australia, the Foundation provides different sorts of financial and practical assistance to exceptionally talented piano students. They include – but are not confined to – tuition at recognised institutions, travel and participation in piano competitions, and opportunities for performance.  Each year a number of grants are made to young pianists who fit the Foundation’s criteria. Apart from outstanding talent, recognition and the need for financial assistance, applicants must be Australian citizens or permanent residents of Australia. Full details of applications can be found on this website under ‘apply for assistance’.

The Theme & Variations Foundation was formed by Ara and Nyree Vartoukian to encourage and support exceptional young Australian pianists. With the help of friends and colleagues who share a passion for piano music and performance, the Foundation took shape in late 2011 and was officially launched at the NSW Government House in the presence of Her Excellency Professor Marie Bashir and Maestro Vladimir Ashkenazy on 14th February 2012.

Prior to that, Ara and Nyree Vartoukian had been actively helping and supporting young pianists since opening their piano sales and service business “Theme and Variations” in 1985. They generously provided – and still do – practice facilities and performance opportunities for many promising young artists. They decided to establish the Theme and Variations Foundation so that their assistance could be formalised and extended, thus making it more effective. Besides sharing the workload, one of the benefits of forming the Foundation has been to attain deductible gift recipient (DGR1) status with the Australian Tax Office so all donations of $2.00 and over are tax deductible.

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Piers Lane, Patron, invites applications for 2020 awards

Apply here

2018 Award winners

The Theme & Variation Foundation’s most recent award recipients were Leanne Jin and Annie Ma. The assessment panel was impressed by the very high level of the performances of both pianists.

Of their 2018 recitals, the adjudicators said: ‘Their respective recitals established excellent technical and textural control from the outset, fine tonal graduation at all dynamic levels, with warm cantabile of the melodic lines, rhythmic, dynamic playing and a sure understanding of the architectural and musical direction of each work.’

Latest News

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Recent Events

The master and two apprentices

The Theme & Variations Foundation’s main fundraising event took a different direction this year when our ambassador, Alexander Gavrylyuk, conducted a master class with two promising young Sydney student pianists, Jake Cheong and Leanne Jin. Held in the Theme and Variations Piano Services Willoughby showroom on 27 November, it attracted an audience interested to hear the technical and interpretive skills that divide good performers from great performers. Both students played Prokofiev, a composer favoured by Alexander in his repertoire and instinctively felt by him on a cultural level. While millions of people have heard Alexander play (always to rave reviews, these days) few would have witnessed his ability as a teacher and communicator. He combined humour, kindness, and a wealth of musical advice to the two students as he commented on their playing, often demonstrating his points with his own playing. It was here that the unspoken difference between ‘on the way’ and ‘arrived’ came through. These two students were leaders among the emerging crop of young Sydney classical pianists, both having won significant recent competitions and awards. While they played their chosen Prokofiev works admirably, the passages Alexander replayed for demonstration came from another dimension. His technique was simply [...]

Michael Brimer talks about music and its creators

The Board of Theme & Variations foundation invites you and your friends to a stimulating series of four evening discussions for lovers of classical music. One of Australia’s most distinguished pianists and musicologists, Professor Michael Brimer will give a series of four informal talks in September 2019 about the classical composers recently voted by ABC listeners as the most popular. They are Beethoven, Bach, Mozart and Tchaikovsky. The talks will be held at the Theme & Variations showroom in Willoughby on the four Wednesday evenings in September. They will be a fundraiser for the Theme & Variations Foundation which assists talented young Australian pianists who need financial help to achieve their goals. Those of us who have heard Michael speak know him as a wonderful story teller with a vast knowledge of all forms of music. He illustrates his talks with demonstrations at the piano, the instrument that has taken him to the top of performing, especially in Australia. As a pianist, Michael has performed 25 different piano concertos, two organ concertos and countless solo recitals as well as being an outstanding teacher. Michael’s talks will not be lectures for students sitting for music exams, but rather for lovers of [...]