Community School Spotlight: Ashot Ter-Martirosyan

Ashot Ter-Martirosyan sitting in front of a piano

Ashot Ter-Martirosyan, 14, studies piano with Inga Kapouler Gartner at the Community School. A Colburn student of two years, Ashot is from Glendale, California.

This interview has been lightly edited for style and clarity.

How did you start playing piano?
It’s an interesting story. In first grade, my teacher gave a writing assignment, an essay. The prompt was, “Who do you want to be when you grow up?” And I wrote that I want to be a pianist and that I want my own piano. My teacher told my parents about this and they granted my wish and bought me a piano, so I started playing from first grade.

Why do you like the piano?
I find it an interesting instrument. I really like the sound quality. It’s very different from other instruments because it’s strings and it’s also percussion with the hammers. And I just generally think that it’s very musical. So, I prefer it over different instruments.

What kind of music do you most like to play?
I really love classical music, and I prefer it over many other genres. I think it’s very fascinating how composers from a very long time ago could create such incredible music that’s still listened to and loved to this day. It’s also interesting how classical music has shaped other musical genres, especially modern genres.

Do you have any favorite composers or genres within classical?
Personally, it’s difficult to decide on one or a few favorite composers; each composer is valuable and unique in their own way. I really like Beethoven and Bach, but I also really enjoyed playing the pieces of romantic era composers like Liszt and Rachmaninoff.

How has your Colburn experience been overall?
I really love Colburn. I feel like I’ve learned and grown a lot more since I came here. I’ve been taking piano lessons with Ms. Inga [Kapouler Gartner]. I also took theory and harmony lessons as well as chamber ensemble.

How do you think it helps you as a musician to play chamber?
It helps me a lot because you have to think musically when you’re playing with other musicians. Also, you have to agree on specific musical terms. All of that comes to one big composition and product that you can learn from to become a better musician.

How is the experience of playing with other musicians different than performing solo?
It’s different in many ways. For example, all the musicians have to have a good connection in order to create a good product. You need to agree on things such as articulation, cueing, dynamics, and a lot of other stuff that you don’t think about while performing solo. It’s also more difficult because you’re not only responsible for what you play, but you’re also responsible for the other musicians.

What is it like studying with your teacher?
Ms. Inga is very supportive, and she’s a really good mentor for me. I enjoy my classes with her. We learn a lot of stuff like musical and technical things, and also the general idea of music and how it should be played with specific composers. Also, I really love the way she explains and helps me understand the music.

You are a Herbert Zipper Scholar. What was it like applying for that and finding out that you got the scholarship?
I wasn’t really sure whether or not I would attend Colburn, but I was considering it. I was getting my concerto ready for a concert in my previous school. When I finished, I felt like I was ready to move and become a better pianist. So, I decided to apply for Colburn. At first, I didn’t know that the Herbert Zipper Scholarship existed. When I found out, I decided to apply for it. I was very excited when they called and said that I got the scholarship. I knew that this was the path I wanted to go with music.

You also recently won first prize in the 2021 International Music Competition “London” Grand Prize Virtuoso. How was it preparing for that?
Before I found out about the competition, I had my Beethoven Sonata in G major ready. My teacher told me that there’s this competition that she wants me to participate in. So, we worked hard and prepared for it together. Then I recorded my Beethoven at Colburn and we sent it in. A few weeks later, I got the results back saying that I got first place. The winner gets to play in the Royal Albert Hall in Elgar’s Room, and I’m very excited for that.

How was it different from going to a competition in person?
It’s a lot more difficult when it’s all virtual, you have to worry about microphone quality and video quality. This is why I prefer going in-person, because I personally find it easier to project my emotions and to feel free while playing that way without worrying about whether or not that got across in the recording.

Any ideas what you might want to do with music in the future?
I’m planning on becoming a pianist, and I’m focusing on finishing Colburn and high school right now. For my future goals, I want to get accepted to Juilliard music school and become a well-known concert pianist. But before that, I obviously need to participate in many different competitions and hopefully win. I’d really like to participate in the Van Cliburn competition in 2023. I know it’s going to be a challenge, but I love challenging myself.