The academy

“It is fascinating to see how young artists make progress in a very short time. »

Seiji Ozawa

In 2002, Seiji Ozawa took over the direction of the Vienna State Opera and created, in Switzerland, a string quartet academy modelled on the one that he had founded in Okushiga, Japan. For all of us who joined the project in 2005, it was the start of an exciting but demanding adventure.

Seiji Ozawa gives his all to the project and no detail escapes him. He is gripped by a passion to pass on to others what he has learned from the greatest masters.

Today, students at the Academy benefit from the advice of top-class artists and tutors, all hand-picked by Seiji Ozawa: Sadao Harada, Nobuko Imai and Pamela Frank, as well as Kazuki Yamada, who conducts the musicians as an ensemble.

Fifteen years after the creation of the Academy, we are able to count on the precious support of our patrons and our Circle of Friends and on the commitment of former students who have become “seniors” at the Academy.

Thanks to the extraordinary impetus given by Seiji Ozawa, the Academy carries out its mission with passion and can be confident about its future!

Blanche d’Harcourt
Direction Artistique
Seiji Ozawa International Academy Switzerland


  • 2004: Seiji Ozawa founds in Switzerland an academy for string quartets modelled on one that he created in Japan.

  • 2019: The 15th edition of the Academy gets under way.


It is Seiji Ozawa’s desire to impart to younger generations what he has learned from his own masters and to offer them the chance to delve into chamber music.


The in-depth study of the string quartet is the very essence of the Academy.


24 young string players are chosen each year following auditions in Paris and Cologne.


  • Tutors : Sadao Harada, Nobuko Imai, Pamela Frank

  • Guest conductor since 2010 Kazuki Yamada


  • 12 days of intense work in Rolle, Switzerland. Quartets first, then ensemble playing in the evening.

  • A series of prestigious concerts.


Seiji Ozawa, the Executive Board and the tutors choose “seniors” from among the former students.These confirmed musicians are involved in running the Academy,  which bodes well for its future.


In 2004,  Japanese conductor Seiji Ozawa created in Switzerland an academy focused on the string quartet and string ensemble. He worked with Robert Mann, founding member of the Juilliard String Quartet, to lay the foundations of the programme. Three tutors have been part of the Academy since the beginning – Sadao Harada, Nobuko Imai and Pamela Frank – and Seiji Ozawa entrusts pianist Blanche d’Harcourt with its direction. The Seiji Ozawa International Academy Switzerland has welcomed 24 young soloists each year since its inception. After its first years in residence at the Hindemith Foundation in Blonay, in 2007 it settled at Rolle Castle, which is placed at its disposal by the municipality of Rolle.

The particularity of the academy

For Seiji Ozawa, the string quartet repertoire is the basis of classical music. It is thus essential learning for any young musician seeking to become an artist of the highest calibre. The tutors’ objective is to get the musicians to listen more attentively so that they may find a common sound and the “same breath”, as Seiji Ozawa calls it. For 12 days, in Rolle, the quartets focus on two movements. This in-depth study is a unique opportunity for the students to excel. In the evening, they meet to play all together. In the beginning they were led by Seiji Ozawa himself, then in 2010 Kazuki Yamada took over the role of conductor.

Seiji Ozawa

“I love working with young musicians… I don’t have to push them. We just have to find the same phrasing, the same breath…”


Seiji Ozawa was born in 1935 in a province of Manchuria under Japanese rule. At the age of 16, he entered the Toho Gakuen School of Music in Tokyo. Hideo Saito, uncontested master of music in Japan, became his mentor.  In 1959 Seiji Ozawa was the first Japanese conductor to win the Besançon International Competition for Young Conductors. Charles Münch then invited him to direct the Boston Symphony Orchestra at the Tanglewood Music Festival. Seiji Ozawa trained further with Herbert Von Karajan and Leonard Bernstein. He has been musical director of some of the greatest symphony orchestras in the world, such as the Boston Symphony Orchestra (1973–2002) and the Vienna State Opera (2002–2010). In Japan, he created the Mito Chamber Orchestra (1984) and the Saito Kinen Festival, which became the Seiji Ozawa Matsumoto Festival, Japan’s premier music festival.

In 2004, in addition to the academies created in Japan (Ongaku-Juku and the Ozawa International Chamber Music Academy Okushiga), Seiji Ozawa founded the Seiji Ozawa International Academy Switzerland, of which he is president.


Sadao Harada

Sadao Harada, who studied under Hideo Saito and Robert Mann, helped to found the Tokyo String Quartet in 1969 and led it for 30 years. He is known for his exceptional technical mastery of the cello and for the dynamism of his interpretations as he performs all over the world. He has taught at Yale University (USA) and at the Trossingen University of Music  (Germany) and is a professor at Ueno Gakuen University (Japan).

Pamela Frank

American violinist Pamela Frank was very young when her parents first introduced her to music. She now plays with the most famous musicians and orchestras the world over. In 1999, she won the prestigious Avery Fisher Prize, the ultimate award for an American instrumentalist. She is a professor at the Curtis Institute of Music (USA) and teaches at the Tanglewood, Ravinia and Verbier Festivals. She is also artistic director of the Evnin Rising Stars programme at the Caramoor Center for Music and the Arts (USA).

Nobuko Imai

Nobuko Imai studied at the Toho Gakuen School of Music, like Seiji Ozawa and Sadao Harada. This world-renowned violist is a member of the Vermeer Quartet and founder of the Michelangelo Quartet and performs with leading artists and prestigious orchestras. She teaches at the Conservatorium van Amsterdam (Netherlands), the Kronberg Academy (Germany) and the Reina Sofía School of Music (Spain).

Kazuki Yamada

Kazuki Yamada was born in 1979 in Japan and won the Besançon International Competition for Young Conductors in 2009. He is artistic and musical director of the Monte-Carlo Philharmonic Orchestra and guest principal conductor of the Birmingham Symphony Orchestra. In Japan, he is guest principal conductor of the Yomiuri Nippon Symphony Orchestra, principal conductor of the Japan Philharmonic Orchestra and musical director of the Tokyo Philharmonic Chorus and the Yokohama Sinfonietta. Kazuki Yamada has been guest conductor at the Academy since 2010.

The concerts

The academicians give a series of concerts. The rehearsals in Rolle are open to the public and there is an annual concert in the courtyard of Rolle Castle with the Chœur des Armaillis de la Gruyère. The Academy’s closing concert takes place in the prestigious Victoria Hall in Geneva.

At the end of their stay in Rolle, the musicians leave for Paris and the Louis Vuitton Foundation. They take part in public masterclasses and give a concert in the Foundation’s auditorium. The Academy has also been invited several times to play in world-famous festivals. In both 2018 and 2019, the musicians flew to Japan, invited by Seiji Ozawa to participate in the Seiji Ozawa Matsumoto Festival. In 2019, they even had the fortune of being conducted by Seiji Ozawa himself.

Executive committee & governing board

Executive committee

  • Blanche d’Harcourt, Director, Artistic director
  • Anne-Sophie de Weck, Administration
  • Anne Biéler, Public relations
  • Thierry Messonnier, Press and communication
  • Julien Szulman, Artistic advisor, head of the Selection committee
  • Suyoen Kim, Artistic advisor, Concertmaster


Honorary members

  • François Landolt, Honorary President
  • Thierry Waelli, Honorary Member

Governing board

  • Seiji Ozawa, Président
  • Alexandre Manghi, Vice-président, Treasurer
  • François Guye, active member
  • Blanche d’Harcourt, active member, director
  • Bruno Mégevand, active member


Funding member

  • Régine Kopp

brochure 2020

© 2020 Seiji Ozawa International Academy Switzerland – Realised by Spinnaker Communication