Gallia Kastner graduated from Colburn’s Conservatory of Music with a master’s degree in May 2022. A dedicated Colburn student for seven years, she was awarded the Frances Rosen Prize, named in celebration of Mrs. Rosen’s life in music.
The Colburn School announced the Frances Rosen Violin Prize in the fall of 2021, named in celebration of Mrs. Rosen’s life in music and her mentorship, friendship, and care for all students who crossed her path as the steward of the Colburn Instrument Collection for 25 years. Founded by Stephen and Linda Rosen in love and memory of Frances, Stephen’s mother, the prize celebrates Frances’ appreciation of the cultural climate of Southern California, and her—and now her entire family’s—commitment to the next generation of artists around the country and here in Los Angeles at the Colburn School. This prize is given to one outstanding Conservatory of Music violinist each year in recognition of not only their exceptional artistry, but also their commitment to being an outstanding “Colburn citizen.” This year, we are honored to name Gallia Kastner recipient of the Frances Rosen Violin Prize.
This interview has been lightly edited for style, content, and clarity.
How does it feel to be the recipient of the Frances Rosen Violin Prize?
It is such an honor. I was at Colburn for seven years; I did both my undergraduate and master’s degree at the School. As the first one in my family to get a master’s degree, it was already a huge deal for me. The Francis Rosen Prize was such a huge help as I was transitioning into living on my own in L.A. To be able to have gone to a school for many years and grown as a musician, being recognized for it made me feel so grateful.
Can you describe how being a student at Colburn has affected the progress you have made in your music education?
When I arrived at Colburn in 2015, there were a couple of things that I knew I needed to practice and improve on in order to grow as a musician, mostly in the technique department. I learned the violin very fast; it was something that came naturally to me, which was great. Though I knew there were techniques that did not fully settle in. I remember the first few weeks of studying with Mr. Lipsett were all about practicing one basic part of violin playing, such as practicing my bow hold and fixing my vibrato.
I think I really started to see improvement about two or three years into studying. Mr. Lipsett and I found a system that worked for me, as I had struggled with being injured on and off. All of these routines that we had worked on are still in my daily practice routine.
Can you share with us how you came to know the Colburn School?
While I was in high school, I was competing both nationally and internationally, mostly in the U.S. but occasionally in Europe. When you’re competing at that high of a level, you get to meet many incredible violinists from around the world. Many of those people were students of Robert Lipsett in Los Angeles, which is how I learned of his name. I heard his name mentioned more frequently over time, and recognized major concertmasters that also used to study with him. He happened to be a jury member of an international violin competition I was competing in, which is how I officially met him and learned of the Colburn School.
The minute I set foot on the Colburn campus, I fell in love with it. I was impressed with the facilities and loved the concert halls. It immediately felt like the right choice when I was accepted.
Where has your music education taken you?
I am still in the Los Angeles area and playing with many orchestras. Pinpointing exactly what I am doing is challenging—the short answer is I freelance quite a bit. In addition to freelancing, I’m still performing as Concertmaster of the American Youth Symphony, and I am working with my string quartet, the Zelter String Quartet. We have a bunch of performances coming up and are working on our summer performances.
Would you share your experience receiving scholarship support and room and board? What did it mean to you?
When choosing a conservatory, Colburn was the easiest decision. I experienced a financially unstable upbringing, and I still don’t own my own instrument. I’ve been fortunate to have generous donors to help me through my career and loan me instruments to help me advance to get to where I am today. Before Colburn, we didn’t know how we were going to afford the flights, hotels, competitions, and food to eat; winning competitions was never enough. When we found out that Colburn was tuition-free with room and board, it was the perfect situation. I loved the School, I loved working with my teacher right off the bat, and it’s such a wonderful facility. Colburn became my home for all those years; it became a safe place where I would not have to worry about anything. I could really focus on my studies, making music, and working on my career.
Would you please share your experience speaking or performing for the Ziering-Conlon Initiative for Recovered Voices?
Yes, absolutely. I love the Recovered Voices Project—it is one of the coolest things that I’ve ever been a part of. The music is stunning, the kind where you can’t believe this music got lost throughout history. Anytime we’ve performed one of the Schulhoff String Quartets for an audience, they loved it. I always do a Recovered Voices project when I am able! I’m especially excited for the release of Shapeshifter—a new album showcasing Erwin Schulhoff, and its release event. I love playing this music, and I’ve already started to think about how I can program that music in my own performances. This music has been so inspiring, and I have been searching for opportunities to include this music in my upcoming performances because it would be great to play this music with as many people as I can.
Colburn extends our warmest congratulations to Gallia for winning the Frances Rosen Violin Prize this year. We invite our Colburn community to join us in celebrating her as she continues her artistic career.
If you would like to learn more about the many ways we can, together, support the next generation, including contributing additional funds to the Frances Rosen Violin Prize funds, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.