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Julia Hwang - Violin

Interview

1. You started your professional solo debut in an impressive way: with the English National Baroque Chamber Orchestra at the age of nine, performing Bach’s Concerto in A minor, and in the same year performed for legendary violinist Ivry Gitlis in London. How do you recall these formative years and your feelings at the time?

I remember being a bit bewildered - one minute I was doing my grade 8, and the next thing I knew I was performing a concerto! I also recall that my teacher made it less of an occasion for me leading up to the event so that I wouldn’t be nervous. It ended up being very fun and enjoyable!

2. Is your family musical?

Well, my brother plays the cello, my mum plays the piano, and my dad… listens to music!

3. In 2015, you were appointed to be a cultural ambassador for the BRACE Alzheimer’s Research, alongside broadcasters Jonathan Dimbleby and Martyn Lewis. How did this honour feel like and what sort of activities have you done in connection with this noble cause?

I am incredibly honoured to be an ambassador for this worthwhile charity alongside the two distinguished broadcasters. I have a personal link to the charity, as my grandmother suffers from Alzheimer’s and I’ve experienced first-hand what families go through when a loved one has the illness.

I’ve done lots of fundraising concerts, with the latest recital raising over £6000 in one evening!

4. In 2012 you were featured in a BBC4 documentary about the nation’s favourite composition ‘The Lark Ascending’ by Ralph Vaughan Williams. Your performance of this work was specifically chosen by the BBC to represent this timeless classic of the great British composer. How did this honour feel like and what does this piece evoke with you?

Needless to say, I was surprised - and honoured! - to have been chosen to represent the Lark Ascending for the enjoyment of the country. Despite having been born in Korea, the piece felt very nostalgic and homely when I first learned it, which is probably one of the reasons why it is so loved by so many!

I performed in the original hall where the piece had its premiere, and it felt very serene and out of this world to recreate the same atmosphere.

5. You began your violin studies at the age of seven with Richard Crabtree as an academic and music scholar at Clifton College. How do you recall these formative years and being mentored by this teacher?

He was the best teacher I could have asked for, especially at such an early age. He made music an exciting adventure rather than a chore, and I began to enjoy practising the extra hours. Our musical relationship went far beyond a teacher-student one, and he was a sort of musical father to me.

6. You are currently pursuing postgraduate studies at the Royal College of Music with Itzhak Rashkovsky. How is this progressing?

Itzhak is wonderful! I’ve been studying with him for over six years, and whilst some may say this is a very long period to stay with one teacher, I still feel I’m learning new things in every lesson. He provides me guidance without essentially spoon-feeding me, making me more independent and creative.

7. What are your fondest musical memories, privately or performing?

I love interacting with the audience members after a performance. One particular memory I am very fond of is when I met a blind lady after I performed the Lark and she told me that she was able to visualise the English countryside which she last saw with her eyes many years ago. It was very touching.

8. How often do your practice?

Probably a common answer, but I practise (or try to practise) every day.

9. Would you consider teaching in the future?

I’m teaching right now! I started volunteering to teach students who couldn’t afford private music lessons, and it’s a very enjoyable aspect of my career.

10. Who would your dream accompanist be, from the present or past?

I can’t say for sure - every musician works differently together, so I’d have to perform with them first to see if we work! The pianists I really admire are Emanuel Ax and Lambert Orkis, to name a couple.

11. What advice would you give to young musicians at the start of their journey?

Practice and enjoyment!

12. How do you balance your work and study commitments and what are the biggest sacrifices?

It was a big struggle to balance university workload and practice, and I think the key thing is to prioritise different aspects of work as your requirements see fit.

To return to Julia’s profile:

submission October 2017