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EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW - Sarah Chang

     Violinist Sarah Chang doesn't mind if you call her a prodigy.  After all, she started playing piano at age three and violin when she was four years old.  Born of Korean musical parents - father Min-Soo Chang is a violinist, and mother Myoung Jun Chang is a composer - she
made her symphonic debut at age five.
     By age eight, she was performing with the Philadelphia Orchestra and the New York Philharmonic.  She started recording at age nine - on a three-quart violin - and the album was a best seller by the time she was 10 years old.  
     The remarkable accomplishments of her career were recognized in 1999 when she received the Avery Fisher Prize, one of the most prestigious awards given to instrumentalists.  She had just turned 20 years old at the time.
     Today at age 29, she is recognized the world over as one of classical music's most captivating and gifted performers. She is also a beautiful (she was the face of watchmaker Movado's global advertising campaign) and socially-conscious entertainer who has achieved celebrity status - and uses that platform to help affect global change.
    Sarah Chang will guest with the Austin Symphony Orchestra on May 1st and 2nd at the Long Center.  The remarkable young woman spoke to AustinOnStage.com about touring with Austin legend Anton Nel, her life as a young musician, and how she uses her fame to further global change.

AustonOnStage.com:  You toured Japan with Anton Nel, who is an Austin music icon who helped inaugurate the Long Center (where you will perform with the Austin Symphony).  Was it a fun experience working with him?

Sarah Chang: Anton is a fabulous pianist and a wonderful person. I had such fun touring Japan with him, and I remember how we basically ate our way through the country, trying everything and experimenting with food! He's way more adventurous than I am in that department!

AOS.com:  Like Anton, you've been hailed as a "musical prodigy" because you started your craft so young and achieved such early critical success - including a best-selling album by age 10.  Do you accept the opinion of being a "prodigy," or do you feel differently toward being categorized as such?

S.C.:  I grew up with the "prodigy" label. I didn't realize at the time that it was one of those labels that, unfortunately, sticks with you your entire life and just won't go away - even if you're not exactly an eight year old wearing a pink ruffled frou frou dress onstage anymore.
    I'm grateful that I started my career out so early.  I feel that I'm now in a wonderful place in my career where I have history with some of the most amazing musicians in the industry.  I can be selective about the projects I want to be a part of, and I have my own tight circle of musical friends who don't really care about the "prodigy" label and treat me as a musical colleague.

AOS.com:  Coming from a musical family, did you feel pressured to take up a musical career, or was it just natural for you to pursue a life in music?

S.C.:  My parents wanted my brother and I to have a musical education, but they did not expect me to dive into this world and make it my life. My career started so early - and I was so ridiculously young - that I think they were a bit stunned, as well, when the ball started rolling.

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Sarah Chang
(photo by Cliff Watts)