Violin Prodigy: Amaryn Olmeda

A. Kori Hill

Amaryn Olmeda is a 16-year-old violinist from Melbourne, Australia. She’s been playing violin since she was three and half and loved it so much she decided to make it her career. 

It’s always been a thing for kids to start playing professionally in classical music; they’re often our go-to references when we talk about prodigies: kids that play at a level you typically only see in adults. But even when kids display such talent and skill, they don’t always get a chance to make a career of it; Amaryn is one of the lucky ones. 

Amaryn Olmeda at age 10

For several years she’s maintained a busy performance schedule, appearing with the Cleveland Orchestra, Chicago Sinfonietta, and the Sphinx Virtuosi. She’s also in school, studying with Miriam Fried at the New England Conservatory of Music (Florence Price’s alma mater!).

Amaryn made her Carnegie Hall and recording debut with the Sphinx Virtuosi in 2022, as the featured performer for Carlos Simon’s Between Worlds. This work is for solo violin that starts off slow and then gets active. 

Ask yourself: is there a melody (fully developed musical idea) or is there a motive (short musical idea)? Are there moments of bluegrass fiddle technique? Would you divide this piece into sections and if so, what would you name them? What does the composer, Carlos Simon, have to say about the piece? 

Last year, Amaryn joined pianist Lara Downes on a program of music by Florence Price, Jessie Montgomery, and Margaret Bonds–all Black women! Lara and Amaryn also took time to talk about Price and Bonds, the music, and the importance of “breathing” in your sound. 

When Amaryn plays Price’s “Adoration,” where does she take breaths and where does she sustain the sound? What happens when she holds the sound out instead of letting it go? 

Now let’s take a listen to Amaryn, Peter Jaffe, and the Folsom Lake Symphony on Felix Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto in E minor. This is one of the most performed violin concertos today and one of the first “big” concertos you’ll learn, after Bruch’s G minor concerto. 

Being a soloist with an orchestra is not as easy as it looks. It’s a lot different than playing by yourself or with a pianist or a chamber group; there’s at least 80 to 90 people! You have to make sure you’re watching the conductor, listening to the orchestra, and not rushing or dragging too much. But! It’s also important for the orchestra to follow you. 

Listen to how Amaryn uses dynamics; how she shows you were the phrase (the musical sentence) is going; how does her vibrato change depending on the emotion she’s communicating? Is she always aligned with the orchestra, or does she push them? Do they push her? 

Think about the solo pieces, the duos with piano, the concertos you play. Which ones require communication between you and another musician? How does that come together so you connect with the audience? Don’t be afraid to experiment; there are many different ways to reach your listeners.  

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