By Carol Schmidt, MSU News Service
A member of the Montana State University music faculty will play today, Oct. 13 at the White House at a state dinner for the presidents and first ladies of both the United States and South Korea.
Angella Ahn, who teaches violin at MSU, will perform at the White House with her two sisters, Maria and Lucia. The three compose the celebrated Ahn Trio.
“We’ve been fortunate to play in many wonderful venues throughout the world, but never before have we played at anything like this,” Ahn said. “As musicians, what an honor it is, to say the least.”
The performance at the White House is doubly significant for the Ahn sisters, who were born in Seoul and moved to New Jersey when Angella was 10 years old. When they arrived, they did not speak a word of English, Angella recalled. Shortly after, all three–Angella plays violin, Lucia and Maria, who are twins, and play piano and cello, respectively, were accepted to the Juilliard School’s prestigious pre-college program.
“That’s when we got serious about music,” Ahn said. “The other students were already playing at the highest level and very dedicated.”
The sisters were featured in a 1987 Time magazine cover story about “Asian-American Whiz Kids.” They went on to get their bachelor’s and master’s degrees in music at Juilliard, where the trio was formed. They have received widespread recognition throughout the world for their music.
The trio has appeared in venues ranging from an ancient church in Istanbul to the Czech Grammys, Wolf Trap and Carnegie Hall, among other places. They played at Big Sky’s inaugural Classical Music Festival in August 2011.
Recently, the trio performed at TEDWomen in Washington, D.C. (ted.com/talks/ahn_trio_a_modern_take_on_piano_violin_cello.htm)The popular TED website noted that “the three Ahn sisters breathe new life into the piano trio with their passionate music making.”
The trio has performed with dancers, artists, kite makers and rock stars. They have recorded six CDs, the most recent is “Lullaby for My Favorite Insomniac,” and, according to their website, “are constantly redefining the art and architecture of chamber music.”
The sisters are also noted for their beauty. Last year they appeared in Glamour magazine. In 2003, they were selected by People magazine as three of the “50 Most Beautiful People.” They have been featured in Vogue, GQ and ads for GAP and Anne Klein.
The trio has a hectic performance schedule, which Angella Ahn maintains from her home in Bozeman, while Lucia and Maria live in New York. Ahn travels about once every two weeks, but she said teaching and MSU and living in Bozeman is a welcome anchor in her life.
“Being a part of this trio with my sisters is an incredible thing, but living in Bozeman, which I think is one of the most beautiful places on earth, is incredible, too,” Ahn said.
Ahn first came to Bozeman 13 years ago, when MSU invited the trio to perform. Years later, she became acquainted with some of MSU School of Music faculty members. She decided to make Bozeman home two years ago. She initially began teaching at MSU when Johan Jonsson, MSU’s violin professor, was teaching in Italy.
“I found that I truly love teaching,” she said. “It’s been great to be able to work with a student for a multiple number of years, not just for a 20-minute master class.”
At the State Dinner, the trio will play “Skylife”, by David Balakrishnan, and two pieces by the Argentinian composer Astor Piazzolla.
It will not be the first time she has met either U.S. President Barack Obama or South Korean President Lee Myung-bak. All three sisters once had tea the first lady Lee and Ahn’s sisters recently attended a dinner with President Lee. Angella was a holder of microphones at the health care forum that President Obama attended in Bozeman two years ago. But performing will elevate the experience to another level.
“I think that it’s about the most exciting thing that’s ever happened to me,” Ahn said. “As a musician, what an honor. But as an American and a Korean-America, it’s beyond belief.”