Canberra-born and Brisbane-grown, Rollin Zhao is a violinist with a funny first name. From 2014-15, he was a musician at the Australian National Academy of Music (ANAM) and returned in 2020 to further his studies with the violin, to continue working with the Islay Trio, and to explore a number of collaborative projects together with other ANAM musicians.
As an orchestral musician, Rollin worked on contract with Queensland Symphony Orchestra throughout 2019. He has also played as a casual musician with the West Australian Symphony Orchestra, the Sydney Symphony Orchestra, and the Australian Chamber Orchestra Collective, and took part in an orchestral exchange with the Xi'an Symphony Orchestra under Dane Lam in 2017 and 2019.
In 2019, he formed the Islay Trio along with Daniel Chiou and Caleb Salizzo, and as an ensemble participated in the Southern Cross Soloists’ Next Gen Program. During his ANAM years, he was a founding member of the Beren String Quartet and received mentorship from the Tinalley String Quartet in 2015. He has also received mentorship by members of the London Haydn Quartet, and the St Lawrence, Goldner, Australian, Doric, Borodin and Tokyo String Quartets, and through various masterclasses and Australian Youth Orchestra Chamber Players programs.
Rollin was a Sydney Symphony Orchestra Fellow in 2018, and an Emerging Artist with the Australian Chamber Orchestra in 2017. In 2016, he completed his Bachelor of Music with First Class Honours at the University of Queensland, and was a joint recipient of the Music Honours Prize. During his tertiary years, he studied with Adam Chalabi, Dr Robin Wilson, and Spiros Rantos. He is currently training with Zoë Black at ANAM.
Outside of formal violin study, Rollin has taken interest in improvisation and folk music. Throughout the Melbourne lockdown, he subsisted on creating many multiscreen covers of Nordic folk tunes and polystylistic arrangements of Happy Birthday for friends and family, whilst clocking up many tens of thousands of steps within his 5km radius. He is a keen fan of the Danish String Quartet (DSQ), Dreamer's Circus, and the like, and always keeps a copy of the DSQ's Woodworks and Last Leaf albums close by in case the opportunity for a solid jam arises.
Rollin plays a Yanbing Chen violin generously on loan to ANAM from Dr Robin Wilson
Photo by Pia Johnson