The Aveta Trio, one of the Young Chamber Musicians program’s seven teenage ensembles, won gold in the junior division of the 2021 Fischoff Chamber Music Competition on May 16. The competition is the largest and longest running of its kind in the nation, and the junior division win includes a $2,300 cash prize and an appearance on NPR’s “From the Top.”
The trio, consisting of pianist Sarah Yuan, violinist Eunseo Oh, and cellist Elliott Kim, impressed judges with their recordings of excerpts from Beethoven’s Piano Trio in E-flat Major, Op. 70 No. 2. Dvorak’s Piano Trio in G Minor, Op. 26 and Gaspar Cassadó’s Piano Trio in C Major.
“I couldn’t believe that we had won at first!” Yuan told SFCV in an email. “I just feel incredibly lucky to have received this amazing opportunity from Fischoff.”
She added that she was grateful to coaches Susan Bates and pianist Jeffrey LaDeur, as well as all of their parents, for helping the group through the competition. Oh and Kim also echoed Yuan’s sentiments, adding that they were “thrilled” and “ecstatic.”
The group completed their recordings for the competition in February, with just two in-person coachings over the span of six months. According to Bates, also the founder and director of Young Chamber Musicians, or YCM, the rest of their weekly coachings were conducted over Zoom using JackTrip, a software program that reduces audio latency.
“Virtual coachings were a little more difficult because sound quality couldn’t be captured quite as well,” Kim said in an email. “Additionally, rehearsing with masks on was also quite difficult as they are slightly uncomfortable to have on for long periods of time.”
Oh added that masks made it harder to communicate while playing, as they covered most of their faces. Still, she is extremely grateful for every opportunity the trio has received and credits the group for helping her survive the pandemic. She added that the trio’s Sunday rehearsals always brought brightness to her week.
The Aveta Trio’s gold marks the third consecutive win for the YCM program at the Fischoff Competition. Previous winners included the Arcturus Trio, which won the bronze medal in 2020, along with the Fervida Trio, which earned the gold medal in 2019.
Music at Kohl Mansion Executive Director Patricia Kristof Moy said in a press release that Music at Kohl Mansion was “bursting with pride” at the resident trio’s win, noting that having YCM as partners in music education has provided “unique opportunities of symbiosis” between their performing ensembles and YCM’s highly accomplished teenage musicians.
Bates added that the group was “extraordinary” in that they were able to grab onto mature, nuanced concepts about music despite the challenges of the past year.
“Something that I feel this trio models better than almost any group I’ve ever heard, especially a group of their age, is the deep-rooted understanding of music through a score; we talk a lot in this program about not just playing our parts but participating and taking responsibility for a complete musical picture,” LaDeur said. “Part of what I think has carried [the trio] through the Fischoff competition is they’re able to tell a musical story from the first note to the last.”
Despite the musical maturity the group displays onstage, the three musicians are typical 16-year-olds with affinities for food — especially pizza and boba tea. Kim’s favorite memory with the trio was eating ramen and watching the movie Parasite together after finding out that they had made it to the quarterfinals at Fischoff.