The story behind how a small Washington, D.C., violin studio landed a classical music star is truly one for the modern age. Horman Violin Studio founder Amy Beth Horman was checking her Twitter account one evening when she noticed she had a new follower.
“I was kind of new to Twitter and I had a new follower, Judy Kang,” Horman remembered. “And my brain went, ‘Oh My Gosh, that’s Judy Kang. Isn’t that Lady Gaga’s violinist?’”
Now based in New York city, Kang is a Canadian violinist and the youngest person ever accepted to the prestigious Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia. She was just 11 years old when she was accepted. Kang, who would not reveal her age, graduated at 17 with a bachelor’s degree in music and at 19 was granted the Lily Foldes Scholarship for the Juilliard School where she earned a master’s degree. She’s performed with major orchestras across six continents and from January 2010 to May 2011, she toured as a member of Lady Gaga’s Monster Ball Tour.
Pleasantly surprised and admittedly shocked with her newest follower, Horman decided to take a chance and send Kang a message to see if she would be interested in leading a masterclass for Horman’s students. And again, to her pleasant surprise, Kang agreed.
“We had a number of 140-character conversations where I felt like I was 14 and I was having to abbreviate things,” Horman laughed. “On the fourth one I thought, ‘I’m really sounding like a fool here,’ and asked her to move it to email.”
Kang will hold an improv masterclass Monday at The Mansion at Strathmore. The event is co-sponsored by Strathmore Education and the Maryland Classic Youth Orchestra. Horman also received funding from the Walt Whitman High School Booster Club Fund. Four of Horman’s students along with two students from the Maryland Classic Youth Orchestra will take part in the class which culminates when the students accompany Kang on a showpiece.
“When I told them, they went berserk,” Horman said of her students’ reaction to the news of Kang’s visit. “I don’t think I’ve ever been cool until I made that announcement.”
A Montgomery County native, Horman founded her studio in 1991. She began playing the violin at age 5 and is a graduate of the Conservatoire National Superieur de Musique in Paris where she won the highly-coveted Premier Prix Solo Violin. Now an adjunct professor at the Catholic University of America, Horman teaches violin to students of all ages out of her home in Washington, D.C.
“I have one student who is 32 who has been here since he was 12,” Horman said. “I’ve watched them go from beginners to startling young soloists.”
Horman has worked tirelessly over the last 20 years to help the studio gain recognition. She’s organized masterclasses with concertmasters including Ricardo Cyncynates of the National Symphony Orchestra and Jonathan Carney with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra. The Horman Violin Studio was also the only studio to team up with the National Symphony Orchestra for “NSO in Your Neighborhood” in D.C. in January.
Horman credits the studio’s success with her willingness to ask for help, even in what is considered the “cutthroat” world of classical music.
“People really want to help when it comes to the kids,” she said. “ ... That really warms my heart.”
Working with violin students is something Kang said she’s made a priority throughout the course of her career.
“Since I started performing, I definitely incorporate the opportunity to visit schools ...” Kang said. “I wanted to have the opportunity to work with [Horman’s students] and also be a part of something together.”
Ultimately, Kang said she hopes students at the Monday masterclass walk away with confidence not just in the technical aspects of the instruments but in terms of their own musical identity as well.
“I want each of them to take away this confidence and trust themselves to see what they want to improve on,” Kang said. “They’re each their own individual artist with unique personalities ...”
Not surprisingly, embracing her own unique personality is something Kang said was greatly encouraged during the Lady Gaga tour.
“She trusted us to do our own thing,” Kang said. “The thing I appreciated about Gaga ... was the openness to allow each individual in the band to really just kind of bring ourselves to the music.”