IN MEMORIAM | St. Lawrence String Quartet Violinist Geoff Nuttall Has Died

By Michael Vincent on October 20, 2022

Geoff Nuttall (Photo: Marco Borggreve/SLSQ)
Geoff Nuttall (Photo: Marco Borggreve/SLSQ)

Canadian-trained violinist and co-founder of the St. Lawrence String Quartet (SLSQ) has died of pancreatic cancer at age 56.

Nuttall was a well-respected musician with deep roots in Canada’s classical music community.

“Geoff was an inspired artist whose loyalty to his chosen passions and people was legendary. He fought cancer as he lived his life, brimming with optimism and tirelessly showing up for the things he loved the most: spending time with Livia and playing sports with his boys; collecting vinyl LP’s, building objects with his hands, and sharing the pleasures of analog experiences of all kinds; nurturing native plants and gardening; and seeking in the string quartet an ever more expansive universe of human expression. Geoff had an energetic and spiritual connection to music that rubbed off on anyone lucky enough to witness him play. He constantly inspired us to heights we never dreamed of. In his home bases here at Stanford University; at the Spoleto USA Festival in Charleston, SC; in Canada and in many other places around the world, he touched countless lives through his performances, teaching, advocacy and friendship. We will miss him every single day, but feel immensely grateful to have been his fellow traveler.” —The St. Lawrence String Quartet (Owen Dalby, Lesley Robertson, Christopher Costanza)

A musician’s musician

Nuttall was born in Texas, and moved to London, Ont., at the age of eight. He studied at the University of Western Ontario, the University of Toronto, and later at the Banff Centre.

With co-founding members violinist Barry Shiffman, violist Lesley Robertson, and cellist Marina Hoover, Nuttall founded the SLSQ in 1989. Cellist Christopher Costanza, who joined the quartet in 2003, and violinist Owen Dalby, who joined in 2015, make up the current lineup.

Under Nuttall’s watch, the SLSQ skyrocketed to notoriety after winning first prize at the Banff International String Quartet Competition (BISQC). The group also won the Young Concert Artists Auditions and signed an exclusive recording contract with EMI Classics.

The quartet’s reputation grew, especially in new music circles. Their debut album, Schumann Quartets 1 and 3, won a Juno Award., followed by Tchaikovsky Concerto quartets 1 and 3 . Their third album, Yiddishbbuk, received two Grammy nominations. Nuttall enjoyed close collaborations with composers John Adams and Osvaldo Golijov.

While continuing to perform, Nuttall was named Director of Chamber Music at the Spoleto Festival USA in Charleston, South Carolina, in 2009. He has also been active as a juror at the Banff International String Quartet Competition and served as a faculty member of Stanford University’s music department.

Nuttall is survived by his wife, Livia Sohn, their two children, and his mother and sister.

The family is inviting donations to be made to The Geoff Nuttall Memorial Fund. Proceeds will advance Dr. Christopher Chen’s cancer research at Stanford University.

Donations can be made online at memorial.stanford.edu by selecting “Other Stanford Designation” and entering The Geoff Nuttall Memorial Fund in the “Other” text box, or by check payable to Stanford University with The Geoff Nuttall Memorial Fund indicated on the memo line, mailed to Development Services, P.O. Box 20466, Stanford, CA 94309, or by phone at 650-725-4360.

[Update: Oct. 21, 2022. A previous version of this article incorrectly stated Yiddishbbuk was their debut album.]

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Michael Vincent
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