The ESTA Tertis Viola Fund

Lionel TertisThe purpose of the ESTA Tertis Viola Fund (ETVF) is to support young viola players in practical ways that will include but not be limited to:

  • Developing skills as a viola player. The ETVF will give grants towards the cost of attending a chamber music course, or an orchestral course, or to take a series of lessons or to attend a masterclass.
  • Becoming a viola player. The ETVF will give grants to violinists who wish to learn to play the viola whether by attending a chamber music course or an orchestral course as a viola player, or by taking a series of viola lessons.
  • Providing opportunities for viola players to flourish. The ETVF might give grants towards putting on an event or a course for viola players. It might give a grant to enable a trained violin, cello or double bass teacher to teach the viola and thereby increase the number of people playing the viola.

What inspired the ESTA Tertis Viola Fund?

In 2024 the trustees of the Tertis Foundation, a charity set up by Lillian Tertis, widow of the acclaimed viola player and teacher Lionel Tertis, decided to move funds from the Tertis Foundation to other charities that could further the aims of the Foundation. With regard to promoting the viola amongst young players and supporting teachers and projects for young viola players the Tertis Foundation approached ESTA UK.

The trustees of ESTA UK decided to create a fourth bursary fund to be added to the three already managed by the ESTA Bursary Committee and set up the ESTA Tertis Viola Fund. The aims of the ESTA Tertis Viola Fund are to continue to promote viola playing and teaching and keep alive the memory of Lionel Tertis, the greatest viola player and teacher of the twentieth century.

The history of the Tertis Foundation

Lionel Tertis (1876-1975) was the foremost viola player and teacher of the twentieth century. An obituary in The Times described his life’s work as “the complete emancipation of the viola from its very humdrum occupation to the full rank of a solo instrument.”

After his death, Lillian Tertis, Lionel Tertis’s widow, was absolutely determined that everything that could be done to preserve his memory and remember his heritage, was done. This included the setting up the Tertis Foundation in 2003. The objectives of the Foundation were to promote education in the Arts anywhere in the world for the public benefit, including without limitation by promoting education in the music for and playing of the Viola.

Whilst at the Royal Academy of Music Tertis took up the viola to help make up a string quartet. He later wrote that, even on an old cut-down instrument, “I loved the timbre, I loved the quality from the moment I studied it, and from that time I worked at it myself, for the simple reason that there were no pedagogues for the viola.” By 1900, at the age of 26, the Royal Academy had appointed him to the newly created post of Professor of Viola. 

Tertis commissioned many works, including the viola concerto by William Walton which initially he rejected as too modernist, but later came to hold in high regard.

In 1924, while in Paris, Tertis bought an uncommonly large Montagnana viola and later, seeking other means to promote the viola, he began work on developing a new-specification instrument whose key feature was its size – it was 16 ¾ inches long, which improved the sonority on the C-string sonority.

Rheumatism caused Tertis increasing pain and he retired from performance in February 1937 but remained hugely active as a teacher, occasional player and supporter of music and musicians well into his eighties and nineties.

Browse write-ups from past bursary recipients

Donate to the ETVF

Click here to see the criteria for applying for a ETVF bursary

Bursaries are only ever awarded to current
Full Professional, Young Professional, Overseas Professional or Student members of ESTA UK
(click here to join ESTA UK) or to the pupils of teachers who are current members of ESTA UK.