Last summer, as the Colburn School was gradually emerging from the pandemic lockdown, Anaïs Feller, a violinist in the pre-college Music Academy, was itching to play some chamber music. But with whom?
“A lot of Music Academy students come from overseas,” she noted. “During the pandemic they were back in their home countries.”
The San Diego native made some inquiries and discovered that two of her fellow students, cellist Mira Kardan and pianist Daniel Wang, lived not far from her apartment, which overlooks Colburn’s downtown Los Angeles campus. “Mira lives right across the street,” she noted, “and Daniel lives 30 to 40 minutes away, depending on traffic.
“We all really wanted to do some chamber music. It had just been too long! After a month and a half, we started to open up to each other. By three months, we were good friends. Now we’re best friends.”
Following that serendipitous start and quick bonding, the group — which they named the Olive Trio after the street where the school is located — has rapidly distinguished itself. It recently won the Gold Medal in the Junior String Division of the internationally renowned Fischoff Competition.
The young players — Kardan is 15, Feller and Wang are 16 — will split a $2,300 cash prize and be featured on an upcoming edition of the NPR program From the Top.
“I believe it was our pianist, Daniel, who said, ‘We should totally try the Fischoff,’” Kardan recalled. “We each brought it up with our individual teachers, and they said, ‘Go for it.’” (The Trio is coached by Colburn faculty members Martin Beaver, Fabio Bidini, and Clive Greensmith; Wang also studies with Micah Yui.)
The competition, which took place May 20–22 at the University of Notre Dame in South Bend, Indiana, consisted of three rounds, in which the 20 quarterfinalists were narrowed to 10, and then three, before the winner was chosen. The Olive Trio played music of Brahms and Shostakovich, as well as a new, boogie-woogie-infused piece.
“Before every round, we told each other, ‘We prepared so hard for this. Just go on stage and bring the energy, bring the passion, and have the best time of your life,’” Feller recalled. “We have this special handshake before we go on stage. That helps us feel a little more relaxed, a little less tight.”
The Olive Trio was one of four Colburn ensembles competing at the event, the world’s largest chamber-music competition. The Sonarsix Sextet, featuring flutist Martha Chan, oboist Eder Rivera Acosta, clarinetist Victor Diaz Guerra, bassoonist Christopher Chung, horn player Elizabeth Linares Montero, and pianist Bogang Hwang, won the Bronze Medal in the Senior Wind Division, which comes with a $2,000 prize.
In addition, another Music Academy student, cellist Angeline Kiang, won the Pinehurst Bronze Medal at the Stulberg International String Competition in Michigan. That comes with a $4,000 prize.
Correction: The article, as originally published, mistakenly referred to Colburn’s pre-college program as the Colburn Academy. The program’s name is the Music Academy.