Interview with Maria Ahn of the Ahn Trio
Q: Who were some of your influences growing up?
Well, one always admires one's parents. Ours lived through a war and its aftermath, knocked the dust off, stood up tall, and became successful people. Our mother in particular forged new pathways and opportunities for women in Korea, which took a great deal of courage and self-esteem. As far as musical influences, I would say Rubinstein, Argerich, and Glenn Gould. Angella says that as a little girl, her personal musical hero was Kyung-Wha Chung. Lucia says Jacqueline du Pre and Rostropovich’s recordings and Myung Wha Chung.
Q: Were your parents musicians?
We don’t come from a family of musicians, but our parents were very much interested in the arts and took us to many concerts, exhibits and dance concerts. Our mother is a writer and our father is a businessman.
Q: What led you all down a musical path?
Lucia saw a piano in the kindergarten and begged our mother for a year if she could get private lessons to learn to play the piano. Once she started Angella and I also wanted to learn to play an instrument.
While we were all at Juilliard, we never imagined becoming the "Ahn Trio." You never dream of working with your sisters your whole life! Then the late great New York manager Harold Shaw signed us, and Chesky Records made our first album. And here we are now releasing our fifth album, "Lullaby for My Favorite Insomniac", with Sony-BMG.
Q: How do you plan on making classical music more mainstream?
By remembering that it always has been mainstream. By remembering that Mozart was the Justin Timberlake of his time. Many classical music composers were so ahead of their time. For example, Debussy didn’t understand Stravinsky’s “Rite of Spring” at its premiere performance. That once Sarabande was banned because it was considered too sensual and erotic. We like classical music for its constant yearning for something newer, something more innovative, something more modern while we also love the wide range of its influences that are evident in its past literature. We should celebrate all aspects of classical music and not be afraid to break out of a box, because that was never part of what classical music is about.
Q: Who decides on the melody or arrangement for each song?
Luckily we are surrounded by so much great music and an incredible pool of talented composers. We all bring in different ideas, but we don’t limit ourselves when making the choices. If we like the work, whether it’s a pop tune or a bluegrass song or a piece by a virtuoso Russian composer, we play it.
Q: Do you find it hard working together because you're sisters, or easier?
We certainly do have our disagreements. It helps that we are a trio so if things ever come up for a vote, there is never a stalemate. Thankfully we all love performing, so when we get on stage, our differences seem to evaporate, at least for awhile.
Q: What inspires you?
I get inspirations from everywhere. Living in New York City, I feel like there is so much at all times to hear, see and experience. I just saw a silent film from 1929, “Les Deux Timides,” with its world premiere of a new score by the NYC Chamber Orchestra at the Tribeca Film Festival. To think this was considered so revolutionary for the audiences of its time is fascinating. The score was done by four graduate students at NYU and it was amazingly well done. Then just last night I saw Lou Reed’s concert at the Highline Ballroom in NYC where we had just given a new CD release launch concert a month ago. The energy you feel from seeing a great concert, what you walk away with, is something that cannot be compared to anything else. Well, maybe to an incredibly artistic meal at the Momofuku restaurant in the East Village. There is so much to absorb from all directions, the list can go on and on.
Q: How would you like listeners to classify your music?
We don’t want anyone to classify our music. We would rather they simply love our music for what it is. Trying to define modern classical music is like trying to define modern art.
Shelia M Goss is an entertainment writer and national best-selling author of Double Platinum, My Invisible Husband, Roses are thorns, Violets are true and Paige's Web. For additional bio info, visit www.sheliagoss.com.