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A Lifetime of Achievement: Sarah Chang, Classical Violinist

As we continue to celebrate great violinists this month, our next featured artist is one of the few professional performers to have earned the moniker “child prodigy.” Sarah Chang’s musical gift was recognized very early in her life, but it is her continued achievements that have solidified her place among the world’s greatest classical violinists.

The subject of numerous interviews and feature stories, this highly sought-after musician has been performing in a professional capacity since the age of eight. And although she has already earned an impressive list of accolades and recorded 20 albums, her determination and drive keep her busy; and she shows no signs of slowing down.

History and Education

Born December 10, 1980 in Philadelphia, PA, Sarah Chang was raised in New Jersey by her South Korean parents who moved to the United States in 1979 so that her father could earn his advanced music degree at Temple University. Chang stated in a 2010 interview entitled “Sarah Chang is Back” with the Korea JoongAng Daily that although she “never lived in Korea, that she “still feel[s] very strongly [that] it’s where [her] roots are.”

At the age of four, Sarah received her first violin, and only a year later she auditioned and was accepted to the Julliard School of Music. Her weekend music classes quickly transitioned to working with Dorothy Delay at her studio where Chang’s father also received his music lessons, and Hyo Kang, a faculty member at the Yale School of Music. The instruction she absorbed during these early years helped shape and expand her natural talent, and at age 8, she made her debut with the New York Philharmonic. By age 10, Chang had recorded her first album, Debut, which was released by EMI Classics in August of 1992.

Her album release, which became a best seller on the classical charts spurred her international recognition and Chang began to tour and perform in earnest. Graduating from High School in New Jersey in 1999, Chang returned to Julliard for university studies with Delay. By this time, she was performing over 100 concerts per year.

She stated for the Colorado Korean Network that, “…having a career at such an early age kept me focused… I felt so grounded and so grateful to already know what it was that I wanted to do with my life.” And, her career is truly impressive.

Professional Pursuits and Awards

In addition to having performed with scores of the world’s finest orchestras including the New York Philharmonic, Chicago Symphony, and Boston Symphony, as well as both the Vienna and the Berlin Philharmonic, some of her most notable recital engagements include her Carnegie Hall debut and Performances at the Kennedy Center and Concertgebouw, in Amsterdam.

Chang has performed as a soloist for many of the world’s most celebrated conductors, and in her capacity as a chamber musician she has worked with Pinchas Zuckerman, Yo-Yo Ma, and Isaac Stern. In 2012 she had been with EMI Classics for 20 years, and her latest offering, Brahms and Bruch Violin Concertos with Kurt Masur and the Dresdner Philharmonie, was her 20th album. And although it was received with both critical and popular acclaim, it was her 2007 recording of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons (see her perform it here) that caused the BBC Music Magazine to assert that “She has never made a finer recording.” Check out what others say about this talented, beautiful lady:

“Ms. Chang was a wonder. Her full, beautiful tone, unimpeachable intonation and restrained sincerity worked perfectly against the music around her. One heard everything, and everything was worth hearing.”–The New York Times

“I thought Sarah Chang was the most wonderful, perfect, ideal violinist I had ever heard.”–Lord Yehudi Menuhin

Just some of her awards over the years include:

  • 1991, Nan PA Award, Korea’s highest prize for musical talent
  • 1992, youngest musician to ever receive the Avery Fisher Career Grant
  • 1999, youngest person to ever receive the Avery Fisher Grand Prize
  • 2004, youngest person to earn the Hollywood Bowl Hall of Fame Award
  • 2006, she was named as one of Newsweek Magazine’s Twenty Top Women on Leadership
  • 2008, named a Young Global Leader by the World Economic Forum
  • 2011, she was named the U.S. Embassy’s Artistic Ambassador

Sarah Chang has truly developed her unique gift, and in doing so, creates music that powerfully impacts those who hear it. On her website, she encourages fans to contact her, revealing that she is “still a kid at heart… [has] no earthly idea how to cook at all,” and that she loves to indulge herself with “concert dresses and shoes.”

Sarah Chang has earned her place as a modern master violinist. Although it can be difficult to go from child prodigy to professional performer, this incredible artist has made that transition with style and aplomb.how music can increase intelligence