The Ahn Trio is a set of three sisters who have been taking the music world by storm for almost 20 years. In those two decades, the Trio has performed in all 50 states and in over 30 countries, recorded six albums, been invited to the White House to play for President Obama, and given TED talks.
And it goes beyond the music world! They’ve been featured in Time Magazine, Vogue, GQ, among others, and ad campaigns for GAP, Anne Klein, the Body Shop, and more.
They make classical music relevant and appealing for today. Maria, Lucia and Angella Ahn thrive on dissolving the barriers between art forms. They are all Julliard-trained on their instruments, and yet they also have fused their work with a range of artists and musical genres, from dancers and lighting designers to DJ's. It’s inspiring and exciting to say the least.
The sisters also are passionately dedicated to education and sharing their knowledge for the next generation of musicians. In addition to doing masterclasses/workshops around the world, they all teach as well: Maria at Harlem School of the Arts in NYC, Lucia in her private studio, and Angella at the University of Bozeman, Montana.
I recently performed with Angella as part of a residency at University of Bozeman (more on that soon!) and she was kind enough to also grant me a brief interview. We laughed the whole time! I hope you enjoy it as much as we did, and get a little window into life in the arts and professional music-making.
This interview has been edited for brevity and clarity. Click the “play” button to listen to the entire interview.
Can you tell us a little bit about the Ahn Trio?
I am so grateful that we are still having so much fun. And, of course, playing with your sisters is not always easy. But we have an absurd amount of fun. And the opportunities that we have had playing as a trio of sisters, I don't think you can replace any of that. So now after 20 years and over 30 countries later in America and the White House and TED talks and everything, I mean … the experiences that we have had are extraordinary. Unbelievable. So I'm grateful every day.
Can you tell us a little bit about your sisters? There's you playing violin…
There's [also] my sister Lucy (Lucia), who plays the piano and she has a son named Blue who we just recorded an album for a few years ago. We recorded this album because we wanted Blue to grow up with an eclectic, you know, a variety of music, and we wanted him to really understand what his mother and his aunts really loved, and the music. Then my other sister Maria is the cellist. And she's the one that made that David Bowie EP.
And where are you in the lineup? Who's the oldest?
Oh, Maria is the oldest by 10 minutes. They are identical twins. Did you know that?
And then I'm almost two years younger. And it's funny because sometimes people think we're triplets. And the best thing about that is we recycle dresses with each other. That is the best. We're all the same shoe size. Like I'm a tiny bit bigger than my sisters but I can fit into their clothes. I mean, we just recycle all of our wardrobe. Perfect. Three times more than usual.
I mean, literally today, we went to a concert and one of us forgot a pair of shoes or something. And the other happened to have an extra pair, we can just fit into that!
Can you tell us a little bit about why you are here in Montana?
It's kind of a long story. And I won't tell you all the personal details. But what's amazing about being here is I moved here 10 years ago, but actually I've had a connection to Montana from about 20 years ago. I actually met my ex-husband in Bozeman, playing a concert for [Montana State University]. Amazing [and] so random.
But I think the reason I stayed is because I fell in love with Bozeman, with my students being at Montana State University, the community. We were talking just recently about our colleagues at MSU, how extraordinary that is, the relationships, and how supportive we are of each other. And just the incredible beauty of Bozeman! I have never quite experienced it because I grew up in Seoul and then in New York City, and you don't have that sense of community like you do in Bozeman and it's just been incredible.
Do you have any pieces of advice for younger women wanting to be professionals or wanting to compose, or for anyone that's starting out on a performance career?
I would say follow your passion. If you love what you do, even if sometimes maybe people don't talk about what's really important to you, stick to it. And it's so, so valuable because eventually people stop talking about what you look like or, you know, what your dress looks like, they start listening to your music. And I think that's important.
I think the other important thing is, and I think I see this in this new generation: be open minded about so many different things. You know, not only should you play music, maybe you want to compose and you want to try different instruments and maybe you sing and it's just this world that I think is changing. It is changing, which is incredible to see.
I think also as a musician, especially if you're very committed to staying where you are, get involved! You know, I'm so excited: I recently joined the board of the Bozeman Symphony, I serve on the Montana Arts Council, and I run a festival (Big Sky Classical Music Festival), and I think it's [all] another way to kind of serve your community. So it's not just about what you do and what you play, but also, how do you make a difference in the whole community of students and other adults and music lovers and everyone.
The Ahn Trio will perform at Yoshi’s in Oakland on Feb. 25, 2020.