Spotlight on Sophia Cho

Violinist Sophia Cho joined the ISO in September of 2017, after a year of playing in the Sarasota Opera as well as freelancing in New York City. She is a native of Chicago, and studied with noted string teachers Almita and Roland Vamos before completing her bachelor’s degree at Rice University and her master’s degree at Juilliard.

We finally tracked down Sophia for an interview in March of 2019. Here’s what she had to say about herself:

When did you start playing violin?

I was three years old, and I didn’t pick violin at first. My mom loved the violin, but never had an opportunity to play it herself, being from the Korean countryside. As I was the first kid, I got to be the one to play violin and took a liking to it pretty much instantly.

I also started taking piano lessons at the same time, but for some reason piano didn’t stick.

Is there any special story about your current instrument?

Actually, I’m trying to find a new violin. There’s nothing wrong with it, but it doesn’t have enough depth of sound. It’s hard to make a complete, well-rounded tone when the music needs to be more intense or emotional. I’ve had the instrument since my freshman year in high school, and it’s time for something with that has a larger range of sound and emotion.

Do you have a favorite piece of music?

I don’t have one specific piece, but when it comes to symphonies, I have always loved the Tchaikovsky symphonies. Popular opinion sometimes is that they are very over the top and cheesy, but I love all of them. They transport me into a fairy-tale world full of dreams and love and emotion. I think that’s what people mean when they say these pieces are over the top. It’s all so dramatic. He’s a drama queen. But I admire that, and that’s what gives it that emotional content. His music is vulnerable, but also powerful at the same time.

What’s the most memorable experience you’ve had on stage?

In Sarasota Opera, playing Dialogue of the Carmelites, playing in the pit and barely able to see what was going on up on stage, there was a scene towards the end where the nuns are being executed. It’s the most emotional part of the opera. I’m not one to get outwardly emotional while I’m playing, but the music we played along with what was happening in the story on stage was just gut-wrenching. The whole opera is so dark, but there is something powerfully moving about that scene.

You have a younger sister who is also a violinist, but you two share other interests?

Oh yes, we share two passions. The violin and Taylor Swift. In fact, my sister came to the most recent final concert of the International Violin Competition of Indianapolis, and we went to see Taylor Swift at Lucas Oil directly afterward. We were both surprised at how she can make a huge venue like that feel so small. Still, it was fun to share the sheer enormity of a concert like that. She mostly goes to classical music concerts with polite patrons in smaller venues. But somehow the two concerts were both very intimate!