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.

Vale Ara Vartoukian OAM

We are deeply saddened at the passing of our dearest friend, Ara Vartoukian OAM.

In losing Ara, we have lost a gentle man with the biggest, kindest, most generous heart. Ara has always given his whole self to those around him, wanting everyone to share what he had to give.

His generosity to our next generation of musicians has been inspirational. It has been such an honour to be by his side, and by Nyree’s side, as together they inspire these younger pianists to have the confidence and joy in performing, to help them on their way.

Ara’s professional passions were always twofold. He wanted pianists, both professionals and young pianists, to be the best they could be, and he wanted the pianos he worked on to be the best they could be.

He was a world-renowned piano technician but relatively few people were fortunate enough to experience his outstanding personal qualities. Those, more than his public persona, are the legacy he leaves to those who knew him well and loved him.

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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2023 Award winners

The Theme & Variations Foundation is pleased to announce its 2023 award recipients. This year we have decided to give one award to Anna Gao from Victoria and one award to Michael de Huy from NSW to assist them in their studies.

Each year, the Foundation seeks to assist young Australian pianists in their pursuits. We are always delighted to find, as we have this year, exciting, fresh talent coming through our teaching institutions.

Anna Gao (Photo credit: Cameron Jamieson)

Michael de Huy

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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 [...]

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