Lucinda Chiu graduated from the Community School of Performing Arts in 2011 and is now a violinist with the Los Angeles Opera Orchestra.
After studying at the Community School of Performing Arts, students are equipped to pursue a diverse range of careers. Violinist Lucinda Chiu chose to utilize her skills developed at Colburn to pursue a classical music performance career.
Lucinda Chiu graduated from the Community School of Performing Arts in 2011, where she studied violin with Richard Schwabe and participated in chamber music and in the Colburn Chamber Orchestra. After her time at Colburn, Lucinda completed her undergraduate degree in music from the Peabody Conservatory and her master’s degree from Rice University. Currently fulfilling her dream of playing in an orchestra, she is a violinist with the Los Angeles Opera Orchestra.
This interview has been edited for style, content, and clarity.
Tell us about your start at Colburn. What drew you to enroll and what was your initial experience like?
I began my studies at Colburn in eighth grade, when I first moved to Los Angeles from Hong Kong.
At that time, I had already been playing the violin for about eight years and was looking to further my musical education in a serious environment. A family friend highly recommended Colburn to my parents, and we immediately enrolled in private lessons with Mr. Richard Schwabe, the former chair of the Community School’s string department.
My initial experience was absolutely wonderful. My first year at Colburn was a significant transitional period for me, as I had to adjust to a new school, new friends, and new lifestyle. Mr. Schwabe made sure that I was well taken care of. I felt incredibly welcomed in his studio and quickly made friends—it was undoubtedly a nurturing and supportive environment. I felt I was a part of the community in no time.
How did you get started in music?
I started the violin at the age of five. My mother enrolled me in a group class to see if it would spark any interest. Since then, music has never left me; my interest grew into a passion, and I became determined to turn it into my profession. I strongly believe that music is essential to our lives and well-being. It has a special healing power that not only brings joy, but also eases pain. Music is a universal language that connects all of us, no matter what language you speak. This is why I am involved in the arts, to strive to light up people’s lives, one note at a time.
Tell us about the Community School programs you were involved in? What was impactful about them?
I participated both in the Colburn Chamber Orchestra and the [Ed and Mari Edelman Chamber Music Institute]. Both greatly contributed to my musical education and experience. Playing under the baton of the legendary Ronald Leonard was an eye-opening experience, and I loved the challenging yet motivating environment. While orchestral playing is generally an experience that is only emphasized in college studies, the Colburn Chamber Orchestra gave me a head start on learning the skills and etiquette of playing in a big ensemble.
My first ever string quartet experience was at Colburn. It led me to develop a strong love for chamber music. During my senior year, my group had the wonderful opportunity to perform at the annual Honors Recital; not only was it an incredibly rewarding experience, I also formed a strong bond with my quartet colleagues who I am still close to today!
What are your musical/professional goals?
One of my biggest goals has been to play professionally in an orchestra. The Colburn Chamber Orchestra has helped me develop ensemble sensitivity and responsiveness at a young age. I am so fortunate to be able to perform across the street at LA Opera now and live out my dream!
How has Colburn helped you achieve those goals?
My studies at Colburn have also made me a more compassionate and thoughtful musician. That is why my next musical goal is to become more involved in teaching. My hope is to give back to the community by teaching students not only how to play the violin, but also to be thoughtful, disciplined, and sensitive human beings. I would love to start my own private studio and start a chamber music camp for young musicians.
What is your advice to young musicians looking to study music in college and to pursue a professional career in music?
Studying music takes immense passion and dedication. My biggest advice to any young musician would be to always pour your heart into your work and never forget the reason you are pursuing this career: because you love music. Take advantage of all the resources you have in college! Attend as many concerts and master classes as you can, ask to play for your peers, and don’t be afraid to ask for feedback. The best way to learn and the quickest way to improve is to keep a humble attitude and always try to learn from others.
Are we going to see more YouTube videos from you? We love seeing the content!
I would love to continue!
What’s on your Spotify playlist lately?
In 2020, I have been obsessed like everyone else with Billie Eilish! I just love her songs! I also really enjoy listening to jazz! To be honest, I don’t listen to much classical music on the side because I think it’s important for us as musicians to listen to other genres as well.
If you ask me about classical, I have been listening to Leon Fleisher a lot. He actually just passed away in August 2020. He was a legendary pedagogue and musician, and he taught at Peabody. That news [of his passing] shocked a lot of us. So, for a period of time, I listened to his recordings over and over again.
What is one great thing about Colburn that people don’t see unless they are taking classes or working with a teacher?
One thing I love about Colburn is how closely knit the community is. Everybody knows each other and you receive great personal attention in all the programs you enroll in. Not only are your teachers invested in your musical progress, they also sincerely care about you as a person.
One of my favorite memories at Colburn was my Saturday lunch hour with friends in between lessons and orchestra. We routinely explored new restaurants together in Little Tokyo and sight-read chamber music together—Saturday was my favorite day of the week! Over the years, I’ve built such meaningful relationships with my mentors and friends that I will treasure for the rest of my life.
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