1. What was the first piece(s) you learned? Was it inevitable you would be a violinist as a consequence of your early tuition?
I started playing when I was two years, so I can’t remember the very first pieces that I played. Before I learned how to read notes I played mostly everything by ear, and in fact I remember playing the Vivaldi Concerto that way!
2. Is your family musical?
Yes, my mom is a violin teacher, which is what got me into music in the first place!
3. Which famous violinists do you admire? Why?
I couldn’t possibly name a favourite violinist, so I’ll have to list a whole bunch! I love Jascha Heifetz, David Oistrakh, Leonid Kogan, Vadim Repin, Mischa Elman, Julian Rachlin, Nathan Milstein, and so many others! Each of these musicians has such an amazing pallet of sounds and a unique approach to music-making.
4. Can you tell us about of your first teacher?
My first teacher was my mom! I wanted to be like her students and to be able to be part of that “group”, so my mom started teaching me! She has always been an inspiration to me, and is still my mentor to this day!
5. What are your fondest musical memories, privately or performing?
Walking out onto the stage of Davies Symphony Hall in San Francisco when I was eleven is a memory I will never forget. Playing on tours, both as concertmaster and as soloist in halls like Amsterdam’s Concertgebouw, Leipzig’s Gewandhaus, Salzburg’s Mozarteum, New York’s Carnegie Hall and of course Davies Hall are some of the most exciting memories. These were some of the most exciting and thrilling moments of my professional career!
6. In 2004, you won the Annual Concerto Competition of the San Francisco Symphony Youth Orchestra, performing Camille Saint-Saens' Third Violin Concerto. Can you tell us more of the memories of this day?
I remember when I was doing this competition, I was also performing in different schools around Los Angeles with the Zipper Orchestra, commuting to and from LA. I remember it was late at night I got the call from Jennifer, our manager, saying that I had won! I was so happy, and performing it in my favorite hall was absolutely amazing!
7. In 2007, you won first place at the Summit Music Festival’s Concerto Competition, playing Chausson’s “Poeme.” Can you tell us more of the highlights of this momentous day for you?
Summit Music Festival is a wonderful summer festival, and I got to work with so many incredible musicians while I was there! The Chausson is a beautiful piece that I love to play! It was lovely to win the competition and to be able to play the piece again!
8. At the age of twelve, you were appointed Concertmaster of the San Francisco Symphony Youth Orchestra, the youngest in the history of the orchestra. You were concertmaster for four seasons, leading the Orchestra on its 2004 and 2008 European Tours. Can you tell us more of this period in your life and the places you visited?
I feel like I grew up in the SFSYO. I started playing with them when I had just turned 11 years old, and I was the youngest member of the orchestra. I was immediately mesmerized by the level of commitment and passion, both from the players and from our coaches. I remember walking out onto the empty stage of Davies Hall before rehearsal, noone in the audience, and just standing there. I had only seen it as part of the audience before, and I felt like it was a dream. This vast hall, completely quiet, suddenly seemed so real and beautiful. We got to work on a weekly basis with members of the San Francisco Symphony, who taught us to be orchestral players and helped us mature as musicians. They were incredible mentors, and to this day (it’s been ten years since I first joined) I am still in touch with some of my coaches! I played under two conductors – Edwin Outwater and Benjamin Shwartz. At the age of twelve, Edwin decided to allow me to lead the orchestra, something that I was not expecting, and that I will forever be grateful for. This orchestra offered me so many opportunities and gave me some of the best memories of my life, from playing Tchaikovsky’s 4th Symphony in concerts all over Europe, to rehearsing and performing with conductor Michael Tilson Thomas, and performing Rimsky-Korsakov’s Russian Easter Overture, which was actually the first piece I did with the SFSYO as concertmaster! I will always be thankful to Edwin, Beni and our coaches for trusting me to lead this amazing orchestra!
9. In 2009, you were selected to participate in the first ever concert of the YouTube Symphony Orchestra. Can you tell us more what is the origin of this orchestra and what pieces you played?
The YouTube Symphony is a great project, and the first orchestra was held in NY in 2009. The auditions were held over the internet, where we had to submit videos to YouTube and viewers voted to select their favourites! This was led by three incredible musicians and conductors Michael Tilson Thomas, Tan Dun and Edwin Outwater. It was collaboration, I believe, between many organizations, but primarily between the LSO, SFS, and Google. We got to perform Tan Dun’s Eroica Symphony, movements from Brahms’ 4th Symphony, Mozart’s Violin Concerto (with Gil Shaham as soloist), and composer Mason Bates’ “Warehouse Medicine from B-sides”. In Carnegie Hall! 96 musicians came to NY from 32 countries, and with many people not sharing a common language! But I think we came to agree that all we needed to communicate was the language of music!
10. If you could do a duet with anybody alive or dead, who would that dream partner be?
This is definitely a tough one! I would love to have played with David Oistrakh and Frida Bauer, Ginette Neveu and Mischa Elman. I would love to work again with Michael Tilson Thomas, Edwin Outwater, Christian Tetzlaff and Gil Shaham, to name a few!
11. In addition to your solo work, you are an avid chamber music player. Your quartet debuted in some of London’s most acclaimed venues, including Cadagon Hall, St Mary’s Abbotts Church, and Royal Festival Hall. Can you introduce to us members of this quartet please?
My quartet consists of myself, Lyri Milgram, violin, Josh Hayward, viola, and Anton Crayton, cello. We’ve been together since 2010 and have been enjoying performing and learning lots of chamber music! We have a great group and love playing, and we are lucky to get coachings from many musicians at the Royal College of Music like Simon Rowland-Jones and Levon Chilingirian.
12. What advice would you give to those who wish to embark on a professional concert music career?
Keep practicing, keep performing, and keep loving the music that you play!
13. How often and for how long do you practice?
I practice every day (except for the occasional day off, of course!) for about four hours.
14. Do you or would you like to teach music?
I love teaching, having watched my mom teach my whole life. I love working with young musicians, and sharing music with them. I think that teaching makes you grow as a musician, and it’s lovely to see the spark in little kids’ eyes when they understand what the music is about!
15. How do you balance your music with other obligations? What are the biggest sacrifices?
Most of my life now is centred on music. I try to balance it in different ways, one of my favourites lately has been going to see different plays and musicals around London!
16. For seven years, you had a full scholarship for the Colburn School in Los Angeles, studying with Robert Lipsett. How was it like to study there under this man?
Mr. Lipsett is the most dedicated and caring teacher. It was great to study with and to be a part of an amazing school like Colburn. Mr. Lipsett taught me how to be disciplined in my playing, how to present myself on stage and in performances and he taught me how to be a better musician.
17. Do you listen to ‘world music’, how wide is you taste in music genres?
My taste varies from bands like Maroon 5 and the Beatles (my favourite bands) to Beethoven’s 7th Symphony to songs from Russian Soviet movies! I listen to all kinds of different music, and love finding new artists!
18. In 2010, you were accepted to the Royal College of Music, London, under the tutelage of Felix Andrievsky. How different is the style of instruction between the US and the UK. Are you enjoying your time in England?
The style of teaching I think varies more between teachers, and less between countries. Studying with Dr. Andrievsky was great, he widened my understanding of music and my appreciation of different styles. Now I am studying with Mark Messenger and am loving how we approach music-making, and the individual style that he encourages me to create within with the composer’s musical ideas!