2020 adjudicators

Eugene Cherkasov portrait

Eugene Cherkasov

Assistant Concertmaster
Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra

Eugene Cherkasov has been a member of the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra for over 20 years. He was born and trained in Baku, USSR, and started his career after winning a National Competition at the age of eighteen. Eugene received international acclaim after performing as a soloist and first violinist with the Quartet of Modern Music at the Frankfurt Feste-89 and at Beethovenhaus in Bonn, Germany. At that time he traveled extensively promoting new composers for wide audiences throughout the USSR and abroad. He later served as the concertmaster of several orchestras in Moscow. In 1990 Eugene and his family moved to Mexico, where he performed with the Mexico State Orchestra. Winning the position of first violinist with the Thouvenel String Quartet brought him to the United States in 1991.

Eugene has served as concertmaster and appeared as a soloist with numerous orchestras. He has also performed in festivals in Michigan, Colorado, Texas, Washington, Vermont, Canada and Germany, was a faculty member of the Wintergreen festival in Virginia. Eugene has participated in various summer festivals in Italy, including Geminiani and Nei Suoni dei Luoghi, where he performed violin-piano recitals with his wife, Larissa. In 2004 Eugene was a soloist with the renowned Ensemble Archi Della Scala di Milano, performing Bach and Haydn concertos in France.

Eugene graduated with honors from the Baku State Conservatory with a Master’s Degree in Violin Performance and Pedagogy. He also obtains an Artistic Diploma and a Doctorate from the Moscow State Conservatory, where he studied with professor S. Kravchenko.

Currently Eugene is Assistant Concertmaster of the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra and dedicates much of his time to teaching and performing chamber music.

Francesca Hiew Portrait


Francesca Hiew

Violinist of the Australian String Quartet

A musician of diverse interests and influences, Francesca Hiew has maintained a multifaceted career. She is currently a member of the Australian String Quartet and
was previously a full-time member of the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra and a core member of the Melbourne Chamber Orchestra.

A former student and fellow of the Australian National Academy of Music, Francesca is passionate about fostering the future of chamber music. She enjoys teaching and
coaching chamber ensembles, regularly tutoring for the Australian Youth Orchestra, Adelaide Youth Orchestra, the University of Adelaide and the Queensland Conservatorium Griffith University.

Growing up as the second youngest of seven children in Brisbane, Francesca began learning the violin at the age of four at the Stoliarsky School of Music. Her primary teachers during her studies were William Hennessy, Michele Walsh, Emin Tagiev and Mark Lakirovich.

Francesca plays a 1748-49 Guadagnini Violin, Piacenza, generously on loan from UKARIA.

Natasha Vlasseko


Natasha Vlassenko

Head of Keyboard
Queensland Conservatorium, Griffith University

As well as performing in Australia and in the territories of the former USSR, Natasha has also played and gave masterclasses in Germany, Austria, Italy, Greece, Hungary, Hong Kong, China, Japan, Vietnam, Singapore, Korea and New Zealand.

Natasha was born in Moscow and graduated from the Moscow Tchaikovsky Conservatory under Professor Jakob Flier. She later pursued her postgraduate studies with her father, Professor Lev Vlassenko. As a student she was awarded the prestigious Tchaikovsky Scholarship and after this went on to win major prizes in international competitions, including the Beethoven International Piano Competition in Vienna and the Busoni International competition in Bolzano, Italy.

Natasha has played under the baton of conductors such as Mikhail Pletnev, Gennady Rozdestvensky, Karl Osterriher, Vladimir Verbitsky, Karl Martin, Edvard Chivzel, Veronica Dudarova, Richard Hickox, Grant Huvellin, John Curro and others. Natasha is currently head of keyboard at the Queensland Conservatorium Griffith University.

Oleg Stepanov


Oleg Stepanov

Senior Lecturer in Piano
Queensland Conservatorium, Griffith University

A soloist and ensemble player, Oleg has performed in the USSR, Germany, Sweden, Italy, Bulgaria, Poland, Hungary, Cuba, China, Japan and Vietnam. He also features on radio and television. For several years, he performed in ensemble with internationally renowned cellist Daniel Shafran, giving numerous recitals all over the world.

Oleg won first prize and Gran prize at the prestigious international competition “Music de chamber” in Florence, Italy. Born in Riga, Latvia, Oleg studied at the Riga Music College with Professor Lifshits. He continued his studies at the Moscow Tchaikovsky Conservatory under Professor Lev Vlassenko and later taught there.

Oleg is currently in charge of the Young Conservatorium Piano Program as well as a senior lecturer at the Queensland Conservatorium Griffith University.