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IN MEMORIAM | Award Winning Violinist Andrew Dawes Has Died

By Anya Wassenberg on November 2, 2022

Violinist Andrew Dawes (Photos courtesy of Banff Centre)
Violinist Andrew Dawes (Photos courtesy of Banff Centre)

Violinist Andrew Dawes, a co-founder of the Orford Quartet, has died at age 82. Dawes was in Aldearrubia, Spain when he passed on October 30.

Dawes was born in High Prairie, Alberta, into a family involved in ranching. He began music studies early, and at 17, moved to Saskatoon to pursue them. In 1962 and 1965, he won the JMC National Competition, and in 1963, he and sister Mary Lou took home third prize at the Munich Duo Competition.

Dawes went on to study in Geneva at the Conservatoire de Genève, where he won the Prix de Virtuosite in 1964. In 1965, he co-founded the Orford String Quartet, which quickly rose to international acclaim. The ensemble performed more than 3,000 concerts nationally and internationally until 1991, and was nominated for 11 Juno Awards, winning three. They left a legacy of over 60 recordings.

Barry Shiffman, Musician and Director of Banff International String Quartet Competition, recalls Dawes in a media release. “Growing up in Canada, the Orford Quartet was the gold standard. The beautiful silvery sound of Andrew Dawes defined that group. At Banff Centre, Andy was an integral part of the success of the Banff International String Quartet Competition, having served as jury chair from its inception in 1983 through August 2004. He has left an extraordinary impact on the lives of generations of musicians and music lovers.”

Among his notable releases after the Orford Quartet is a 2002 recording of all ten Sonatas for Piano and Violin by Beethoven with pianist Jane Coop.


Among Dawes’ many achievements was a 2013 Governor General’s Lifetime Achievement Award. In the award notes, it called Dawes, “one of the finest violinists Canada has ever produced. An exceptional performer and gifted teacher, he is known for his commitment to hard work, technical excellence, musical integrity, and excitement of performance. In a career spanning half a century, his unique ability to share his enthusiasm for classical music has inspired listeners, students, and fellow musicians around the world.”

Other awards include:

  • Member of the Order of Canada (1991);
  • Molson Prize (Canada Council for the Arts, 1976);
  • Chalmers National Music Award (1994);
  • Dorothy Somerset Award for Excellence in Performance and Development (University of British Columbia, 2002);
  • Queen Elizabeth Jubilee Medal (2002);
  • Diamond Jubilee Medal (2012).

For the next generation

Dawes was also dedicated to his involvement in music education. He taught violin and chamber music as part of the faculty of music at the University of B.C. and later at the University of Toronto. In 2006, he became the inaugural Distinguished Visiting Scholar, Catherine Thornhill Steele Chair in Music at McGill University.

He was Director of the Vancouver Academy of Music’s Chamber Music Institute in 2011, and served on the board of St. James Music Academy, an organization providing free instruments and music lessons to under-served children in Vancouver.

Dawes was a sought after jurist for music competitions, including the Banff String Quartet Competition (1983–2004) and the London International String Quartet Competition.

May he rest in peace.


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