This interview has been edited for style, content, and clarity.
What is your musical background and how did you start playing clarinet?
My parents are both professional violinists and my siblings have both been playing music since I can remember. I actually started out on violin when I was around seven years old, but in the fourth grade, my best friend and I decided to start playing clarinet.
At my elementary school, they had a program where the older students showcased different instruments and you could choose to rent one out and attend little weekly rehearsals and group classes. So that’s what we did. And the way my mom puts it is that I came home one day with a box and said, “I’m playing clarinet now.” I guess that stuck.
Why do you like the clarinet?
I think it’s a way for me to sing because I don’t really have a good singing voice, but I always feel the urge to sing. So the clarinet is a good way for me to do that without making everyone’s ears bleed as much as they would from my voice.
How is it different from the violin?
With the clarinet, I think maybe it’s just the act of blowing air—where I feel like if I’m breathing as a part of the music, since it’s not an option on clarinet, I get to connect with it on a more natural level. I feel like I’m part of the instrument and music comes as a result of that connection rather than me just playing notes.
You mentioned that your parents are both professional musicians. How did that play into your relationship with music?
I think my relationship with music is something that I never really questioned or ever chose. It’s just another language that we kind of spoke in the household. And it’s something that I don’t think I could ever let go of because it is that personal to me. It’s tied to the experiences I had growing up.
What was the piece you chose to perform for this?
It’s the second movement of the Stravinsky Three Pieces for Solo Clarinet, and it’s notorious for having a lot of difficult passages because Stravinsky was very clear with what he wrote in the music.
It can be hard to try and not phrase actually, because you want it to be kind of rigid and robotic when it’s notated to be that way. And there’s a small section in the middle where you can sing, but for the rest he has very strict markings so it’s very difficult to try and stick to them. Yeah, and of course the notes aren’t any fun either.
What kind of music do you like to play the most?
Classical, but I’ve also been really getting into contemporary music, more modern things. The past couple of years I’ve been much more interested in that and have actually had the chance of premiering music.
How did you get into that?
It’s through the Yellow Barn’s Young Artists program, which I’ve gone to the past two summers. Part of the program is to work with composers your age and work side by side to premiere their pieces. I think that’s just as important as studying already existing repertoire.
It teaches me a lot about playing and how to approach existing repertoire. It’s also just exciting to get to work with composers and really make their pieces your own.
How did you bring that knowledge back to your classical studies?
I think it gives me some perspective on how to approach the music. Like each note I’m seeing, I try to see it as though I don’t know what’s coming next. It almost makes it feel like I’m writing the music.
I’m thinking “why would I put this particular note there? Why is it phrased a certain way? Why is this slur mark here and not over there?” It makes me question the little things that I wouldn’t notice before, and it drives me insane, but it’s a lot of fun.
What has it been like at Colburn the last four years?
It’s been really great. Something that I really like about the Community School is that there is a lot of flexibility. I get to kind of pick and choose different ensembles I want to be a part of, and I of course love taking lessons with my teacher, Michael Yoshimi. He’s been incredible to work with over the past three and a half years.
I participated in [Colburn Youth Orchestra] for a while and that was great, since I really enjoy playing in an orchestra. And I’m now in the Honors Chamber program in the [Ed and Mari Edelman] Chamber Music Institute. I love my group, and I’m really glad that I have the opportunity to do that here.
How do you think Colburn has contributed to your musical education?
The obvious answer is my teacher, Mr. Yoshimi. He’s the reason I’m here. I owe him a lot for the dedication and time that he’s put into my musical education and development. He really goes out of the way for his students—he records for us and he’s always there to answer our questions and help with our problems, and I’ve just been so fortunate to study with him during these past three and a half years. I feel like we really understand one another now and lessons are getting more and more productive as we keep working together.
Are you new to the Honors Chamber program?
This is my first year, but it’s been great. I love chamber music so much, and I really love my group. Chamber music was kind of my first introduction to playing when I had just started on the violin, and it’s something I get to do at Yellow Barn, and now it’s wonderful that I can do it here.
What’s different about this chamber group versus other ones you’ve played with?
Whenever I have other chamber groups, it’s in a very condensed amount of time. Like at Yellow Barn, we’ll have maybe 10 days to put together a piece. At other festivals, you just meet when you can.
But here it’s been really interesting to have rehearsals and coachings every week and see throughout the semester how our pieces change. So that’s been something that’s really nice, kind of letting what we do on the weekend marinate—we don’t have to rush to get it done for a concert that’s in two days. We have a lot more time to make the pieces our own. That’s something new that’s been really eye-opening.
You have a very impressive resume. What’s the most meaningful or exciting thing that you’ve done recently?
I was in the National Youth Orchestra this past summer, and we toured throughout Europe with Sir Antonio Pappano playing Strauss’s Alpine Symphony and Prokofiev’s Symphony No. 5.
I still sometimes have a hard time believing it happened. I’ll look at the video of us playing at the BBC Proms, and I’ll think, “wait, that’s me. How did that happen?” It was just incredibly surreal.
That particular concert really stood out for me, because growing up in music, you constantly see videos of the Proms. You have that image in your head from different recordings on YouTube, so actually getting to perform on that very stage was just mind-blowing. Afterwards, I had to take a moment to stand there and look around me and just really appreciate the opportunity to be there.
What do you hope to do with your music in the future?
That’s something I’ve been thinking about a lot with college applications and everything. I think I wouldn’t just want to perform since I’m excited to explore how music can fit into other areas of interest. Something I’ve had a lot of fun with is trying to bridge the gap between music and psychology and studying how they work with one another. Studying psychology in depth really helped me with my performance anxiety and how I think about and approach music.
What are your thoughts on the classical music field as a whole?
I think, in general, classical music could be a lot more about giving, because it can have a big impact on different people and different communities. I feel like the classical music industry could really think a lot more about what the point of performance is, or how we can help different audiences.
I’ve been involved with Music for Food for the past few years, for example, and I think the music has had much more purpose when I’ve performed through that rather than when I’ve just performed in a recital or something. With Music for Food, people will throw dollar bills in a violin case in front of us while we’re playing, but all of that money goes to food shelters. That’s been much more rewarding than any competition or video on YouTube.
I think more people should be asking, “how can we use this craft that we’ve all gotten to know and love to help other people?” People are starting to ask it more, like with the start of Street Symphony and how much Music for Food has grown in the past 10 years. And I think there are a lot of people who are asking that question, but I think the big organizations who already have power in the classical music field should be asking it too.
Anoush Pogossian Performs Stravinsky's Three Pieces for Solo Clarinet
The monthly Saturday Spotlight series highlights our outstanding students, faculty, and staff from across the school. Read other spotlight interviews.
Benjamin Lash began studying cello at the age of six. In his early teens, as a first place winner of multiple Chicago area competitions, he performed concertos by Saint-Saëns, Shostakovich, Hindemith, and Haydn. Benjamin was a top prizewinner in the Washington International Competition. Recent concerto performances include Haydn’s C Major Cello Concerto with the University of Southern California (USC) Thornton Symphony, Tchaikovsky’s Rococo Variations with the Colburn Orchestra, and Dvořák’s Cello Concerto with the Brentwood Symphony Orchestra.
Benjamin received his Bachelor’s of Music from the Colburn Conservatory of Music where he studied with Ronald Leonard. He completed a Master of Music degree at the USC Thornton School of Music where he studied with Ralph Kirshbaum.
An avid chamber musician, Mr. Lash has participated in summer festivals including Ravinia’s Steans Music Institute, Sarasota Music Festival, Taos, Aspen, Holland International Music Sessions, Fortissimo Fest in Bulgaria, and Franco-American Chamber Music Festival in Missillac, France. He is also a member of SAKURA, a Los Angeles based cello quintet.
John Hallberg, a Southern California native, is highly in demand as both a performer and educator in the Southern California area and ranks among the most esteemed and admired saxophonists of his generation. He has performed as a soloist and chamber musician in the United Kingdom, Croatia, France, Belgium, Sweden, China, Hong Kong, and across the United States. Dr. Hallberg’s career has taken him to many of the world’s most prestigious venues, including Weill Recital Hall at Carnegie Hall, Segerstrom Concert Hall, McCormick Place, Bovard Auditorium, Zipper Concert Hall, and Meng Concert Hall. He has performed under the batons of notable conductors such as H. Robert Reynolds, Frank Battisti, Ray Cramer, Carl St. Clair, Larry Rachleff, Richard Heidel, and John Carnahan. Dr. Hallberg can be seen and heard on broadcasts of UITV, KUSC, and KCCK.
Dr. Hallberg currently instructs saxophone at California State University-Fullerton, the Colburn School, and the Orange County School of the Arts. He has also previously taught applied saxophone at the University of Southern California’s Thornton School of Music. Many of his students have successfully auditioned into leading undergraduate, graduate, and teaching credential programs. They have also successfully competed in North American Saxophone Alliance solo and chamber music competitions, Music Teachers National Association solo and chamber music competitions, and multiple California honor bands across the state.
Dr. Hallberg received a Doctor of Musical Arts in Saxophone Performance with minors in Music Theory and Analysis, Music Technology, and Jazz Studies at the University of Southern California. Dr. Hallberg also holds a Master of Arts degree from the University of Iowa, and a Bachelor of Music degree from The Bob Cole Conservatory of Music at California State University-Long Beach.
Dr. Hallberg is a Yamaha Performing Artist and plays on Yamaha Saxophones exclusively.
Praised as “sparkling” by The New York Times and “a rising star” by China Musical Weekly, pianist Hui Wu displays her versatility through a creative approach to programming, stemming from a contemporary/classical music duality. Her recent performance highlights include west coast premiere of Merrill Songs by Matthew Aucoin; multimedia project with artists Nova Jiang and Gaëlle Choisne in collaboration with the Los Angeles CleanTech Incubator(LACI) and The Mistake Room, as well as chamber music appearances at the Beverly Hills National Auditions Winners’ concert series.
Hui serves as the Southern Festival Chair in California Association of Professional Music Teachers (CAPMT). She is also a frequent adjudicator in music competitions in the US. Currently, she teaches at the Colburn Community School of Performing Arts, Moorpark College, Cal Lutheran University, and Junior Chamber Music. Hui studied at The Juilliard School for her Bachelor and Master’s degrees with full scholarship. She earned her Doctor of Musical Arts degree at the University of Southern California Thornton School of Music. Her teachers include Matti Raekallio, Jerome Lowenthal, Stewart Gordon, Philip Lasser, and Donald Crockett.
In the past seasons, her performances have included solo recital tours and master classes in China and Germany. Other highlights included premieres in Los Angeles Philharmonic Composer Fellowship Concert at Disney Concert Hall; “Art as Activism” concert with Christopher Rountree and contemporary ensemble wild Up; debut of her “Lone Journey” multimedia project in collaboration with the USC Thornton Arts Leadership Program, in addition to chamber music appearances in China with violinist Rainer Honeck, Stefan Dohr, and Stefán Ragnar Höskuldsson. She has also been invited to perform at the opening night concert in the Tully Scope Festival in Lincoln Center and chamber music appearances with choreographer Zach Winokur and the Juilliard Dance Division. She has also performed Nick Didkovsky’s Zero Waste for pianist and computer on Beyond the Machine 12.1 series at the Music Technology Center in Rosemary and Meredith Willson Theater.
As an avid chamber musician, Hui has been invited to festivals such as at Taos School of Music, Yellow Barn Chamber Music Festival, Music Academy of the West, International Summer Music Festival in Goslar, Germany, PianoTexas Festival, and Beijing International Music Festival and Academy. She is the founder of ensemble demitasse and trio E’Toile. Her mentors and collaborators include Michel Beroff, Malcolm Bilson, Peter Donohoe, Peter Frankl, Margo Garrett, Joseph Kalichstein, Seymour Lipkin, Susan Narucki, Charles Neidich, Menahem Pressler, Gary Wedow, GuangRen Zhou, Robert McDonald, Michael Tree, as well as the Brentano, Borromeo, and the ShangHai Quartets among others.
A composer and advocate of new music, Hui has performed and premiered numerous contemporary works by composers such as Matthew Aucoin, Du Yun, Huang Ruo, Chen Yi, Jeffrey Parola, Eric Nathan, Paul Chihara, and Elliott Schwartz. Ms. Wu has collaborated with Juilliard’s Dance Division on her composition Simogatas for soprano and piano four hands. In addition, Wu’s Three Little Pieces for Orchestra (2011) was premiered by conductor Euntaek Kim and the Double Visions Orchestra. Her other compositions vocal and instrumental works have also been premiered and performed in New York, Los Angeles, and in China. Recently, she premiered her Aprés Notations (2015) to pay tribute to Pierre Boulez and That Light In My Dream (2017) at the 2017 unSUNg project with soprano Kyra Folk-Farber.
Born in China, Hui started her musical training at the age of four. At the age of thirteen, she made her debut recital in GuangDong Concert Hall with 12 Chopin Etudes and Liszt Rhapsodies. She has won numerous competitions including first prizes in the Kosciuszko Chopin Competition in New York, the Murray Dranoff International Artists Competition in Miami, the Beverly Hills National Auditions, and the 65th Steinway International Piano Competition. Hui has also won top prizes in the Ettlingen International Competition in Germany, the Corpus Christi International Competition, Ryoichi Sasakawa Young Leaders Fellowship Fund Award, Young Artists Concerto Competition in Texas, the National Youth Piano Competition of GulangYu International Piano Art Festival and the Golden Clock Piano Competition in China.
Diana Morgan was acting piccolo/3rd flute of the San Diego Symphony from 2014–2015, and again from 2017–2019. Ms. Morgan performs regularly with the Los Angeles Philharmonic and Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra, and is a recurring guest principal flute of the Santa Barbara Symphony. Ms. Morgan can be heard playing piccolo on the ABC series Fresh Off the Boat. She has performed at numerous festivals, including Mainly Mozart, Arizona MusicFest, the Artosphere Festival, and Spoleto Festival (USA). Ms. Morgan received a Graduate Certificate in flute performance from the University of Southern California and her master’s degree from Carnegie Mellon University.
She is a sought-after teacher and is an adjudicator for the Colburn Conservatory flute auditions. For the past ten years, Ms. Morgan has been the executive director and young performer faculty at Jim Walker’s “Beyond the Masterclass” at the Colburn School. Alumni of her private studio have attended such institutions as the Colburn Conservatory, USC, UCLA, Manhattan School of Music, Dartmouth College, Brown University, Carnegie Mellon University, Yale University, and many others. Ms. Morgan is excited to meet and work with aspiring, dedicated flutists, regardless of age or level. She has taught beginner and advanced students for over 15 years.
Cellist Sarah Koo is known not only for her solo and chamber performances, but also as an avid educator and outreach advocate. As an educator, Ms. Koo currently teaches at the Colburn Community School of Performing Arts and at the University of California Irvine. In 2019, Ms. Koo was named as one of the Top 100 Most Influential People by the Orange County Register for her efforts to utilize music as a means of outreach. Ms. Koo graduated with her Master and Bachelor of Music degrees from The Juilliard School where she was the sole recipient of the prestigious William Schumann Award for outstanding achievements in music, academics, and leadership.
Joan Kwuon, whom The New York Times describes as “fiery, intensely musical and impassioned,” enjoys a critically-acclaimed performing career appearing with leading international orchestras. She was previously head of the violin department at Cleveland Institute of Music, where she also currently teaches, and was on the violin faculty at The Juilliard School.
Ms. Kwuon made her debut at the invitation of Sir André Previn at the Tanglewood Music Festi-val in 2000 and was presented at Lincoln Center the following season. Since then, Ms. Kwuon has been engaged by celebrated orchestras, including playing Mozart Violin Concerti with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra for Mozart’s 250th birthday, performing the Sibelius Violin Con-certo with the London Symphony Orchestra and Previn, and appearing with Previn and the Prometheus Chamber Orchestra at Carnegie Hall. She has also appeared with NHK Symphony Orchestra of Tokyo, BBC National Orchestra of Wales, Seattle Symphony, Beijing Symphony Orchestra, Jyväskylä Sinfonia of Finland, Moscow State Radio Symphony, Rochester Philharmonic, Chicago Philharmonic, Janáček Philharmonic, Orquesta Sinfonica de Venezuela, Bilkent Symphony Orchestra in Turkey, Festival Internacional Cervantino in León, Mexico, Buffalo Philharmonic, Richmond Symphony, Bulgarian National Academic Orchestra, Orchestra Europa, and Busan Philharmonic.
An avid recital performer, Ms. Kwuon has appeared at the Metropolitan Museum with Previn, the Library of Congress with Sergei Babayan, Philadelphia’s Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts with Previn. She has also performed at the Ravinia Festival, Caramoor’s Great Artists Series, San Francisco Performances, the Peggy Rockefeller Concerts in New York City, Krannert Center, Hoam Art Hall in Seoul, and the St. Petersburg Conservatory in Russia.
In duet with Tony Bennett, Ms. Kwuon performed jazz classics at Lincoln Center Jazz and the Grammy Awards MusiCares Gala. As an active chamber musician, Ms. Kwuon has collaborated with members of The Juilliard Quartet, Jaime Laredo, Sharon Robinson, Sergei Babayan, and Cho Liang Lin on series including the 92nd Street Y, Nevada Chamber Music Festival, and La Jolla’s Summerfest.
Born in Los Angeles, Ms. Kwuon began playing violin at age six. She attended Crossroads School and studied at Indiana University with Miriam Fried, The Juilliard School with Joel Smirnoff and Robert Mann, and Cleveland Institute of Music with Donald Weilerstein. In addition to her faculty positions at CIM and at The Juilliard School, Ms. Kwuon regularly teaches and performs at numerous music festivals including Heifetz International Music Institute, The Round Top Festival in Texas, Interlochen Violin Institute, Borromeo Music Festival in Switzerland, Great Mountains Music Festival in South Korea, and Bowdoin International Music Festival, as well as featured masterclasses for The Juilliard Starling-Delay Symposium and the Sibelius Academy in Helsinki, Finland.
Signing a multi-disc contract with Azica Records, her upcoming release of recital works by Strauss, Mozart, and Previn will be followed by a complete Beethoven Violin and Piano Sonata recording project.
How did you start playing trumpet?
I started with percussion, and then I liked the trumpet so I started playing the trumpet. I liked the sound and how it looked.
How did you discover the trumpet?
My dad plays trumpet, and my whole family plays music.
What does the rest of your family play?
My brother plays trombone, and my sister plays clarinet. My older sister plays clarinet too, and my mom plays sax.
Do you ever play together?
We have a band. It’s fun because we can play with each other and play duets and stuff.
Your brother and sister also take lessons here, right?
Yeah, we help each other. Sometimes we figure out songs together.
How do you like it at Colburn?
I feel good at Colburn because there are a lot of people I can meet and it’s cool.
This is your second year in the Wind Ensemble. What is playing in it like?
It’s fun playing with the Wind Ensemble because there are songs that are cool and they were hard but I understood them after.
How do you usually rehearse?
I practice at home and from here I go to my dad’s work. He’s a teacher for music and he takes me there and I practice music that I need to.
Does your dad help you a lot with your music?
Yeah. Other than helping me to play, he took me here and if there are scholarships, he’ll put me in it, like the Herbert Zipper Scholarship.
Tell me about the piece you played.
It’s called The Débutante by Herbert Clarke. My dad actually told me about this. He was on YouTube and then he showed me it and he asked if I wanted to play it, and I said yes, because I liked it, and then he printed it out. I played it and my teacher Mike Zonshine told me that it’s in one of my books, so we started practicing it.
Why do you play music?
I play because it’s fun and I like to challenge myself with some songs, like songs I hear on the radio I can just play then.
What’s your dream when you get older?
My dream is to be in the LA Phil. In high school, I kind of want to go to LACHSA, but it’s pretty fun here too.
Erre Maqueos Performs Clarke's The Débutante
Violist and composer Jonah Sirota is a new breed of multi-talented musician. Equally comfortable writing concert music, performing as a soloist and chamber musician, scoring soundtracks for TV and film, and collaborating in improv and new music ensembles, Jonah creates and recreates vivid music for a wide variety of audiences. His debut solo recording STRONG SAD, a 2018 National Sawdust Tracks release, features premiere recordings of new elegies for the viola by Nico Muhly, Paola Prestini, Arthur Joseph McCaffrey, Valgeir Sigurðsson, Robert Sirota, Kurt Knecht, and Jonah himself. Recent compositions include Grounded, an orchestral work written for the Greenwood Music Camp Orchestra and premiered in the summer of 2018, and the viola sonata Flutter Fingers.
Jonah was the violist of the recently-disbanded Chiara String Quartet for all of its 18 years. With the Chiara Quartet, he toured internationally, recorded seven albums, and played in numerous major venues worldwide. The Chiara Quartet performed much of the string quartet repertoire from memory (‘By Heart’), including the complete string quartets of Béla Bartók, a recording of which was released in 2016 on Azica Records. The group was honored with a Grammy nomination (2011, Best Contemporary Classical Composition for Jefferson Friedman’s Third String Quartet on the New Amsterdam label), the ASCAP/CMA Adventurous Programming Award, the Guarneri Quartet Award, top prizes at the Paolo Borciani Competition and the Astral Artistic Services Audition, and a Gold Medal at the Fischoff Competition. Their albums have been featured on NPR and in “Best of the Year” lists from the Boston Globe, The New York Times, and the Wall Street Journal. In the 2015–16 season, the group was in residence at the Metropolitan Museum in New York, a venue to which the group returned for their farewell New York concert in May of 2018. As a concert violist, Jonah performs with pianist Molly Morkoski, with organist Kurt Knecht as the improv duo Mondegreen, and as a member of the revived California String Quartet. He is sought after as a session player and regularly plays with major orchestras.
Jonah is also known as a viola and chamber music pedagogue. He has an ongoing violinist.com blog series on switching from violin to viola. His “practice self-audit” has been used by viola students across the country to empower violists to motivate their own improvement and creativity in the practice room. His Practice Tune-Up for professional and adult amateur violists has given many the chance to reconnect with their own inner passion on the instrument. Mr. Sirota has taught at the Juilliard School, Harvard University, the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Glenn Korff School of Music (where he helped build a world-class chamber music program), and the Greenwood Music Camp, and in master classes and residencies throughout the country. He resides in Los Angeles, CA.
Mary Alonso earned her Bachelor of Music in Flute Performance from California State University, Long Beach where she studied with John Barcelona. After graduating, Mary earned a Multiple Subject Teaching Credential and taught in Downey Unified School District for over 27 years. It was during this time that Mary saw the strong connection between music and language development and become a Language Development and an Orff Schulwerk (Levels I-III) Specialist. Additionally, Mary served as an Arts Integration and STEAM Specialist and shared her passion for the arts with educators all over the state through presentations at the CA STEAM Symposium, CA Science Teachers Conference, and Project Lead the Way State/National conferences.
Mary continues to support arts education by serving as a member of the California Deptartment of Education’s Visual and Performing Arts (VAPA) Curriculum Framework and Evaluation Criteria Committee for the new CA State VAPA Standards and provides coaching for arts integration and STEAM programs. She performs as a freelance artist throughout the south land.