Spotlight on Bella Seo

Bella Seo is one of the newest members of the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra, joining the Second Violin section after her successful audition in the Fall of 2019. Originally from South Korea, Bella completed her undergraduate degree from Seoul National University before moving to the U.S. to study at Indiana University, where she just recently finished her masters degree.

Unfortunately, due to the suspension of concerts due to COVID-19, Bella’s debut with the ISO has been postponed! We recently emailed back and forth with Bella, who is currently staying with family in South Korea, to learn more about her life in music.

Hi Bella! So when did you start playing the violin?

I started playing both piano and violin when I was three years old. I don’t remember very well, but according to my mom I would dance to music on the piano bench, and I was always happy to make musical sounds. I started playing the violin more seriously when I was ten years old, absolutely falling in love with the sound of the instrument while watching a concert featuring Korean violinist Kyung-Wha Chung. My goal from then on was to make those beautiful sounds for myself someday.

Is there any specific story to your current violin?

I found my instrument when I was in high school. When I first played it, I thought that if I could listen to this sound for the rest of my life, it would be an amazing life. Since then I have tried a lot of great instruments, which are much more expensive and have certain qualities that are highly desirable, but I still feel most comfortable when I play my own instrument.

I feel the love from my parents when I play my violin, because I understand how much effort they put in to support me as a musician.

Do you currently have a favorite piece of music?

It’s hard to pick just one, but if I had to, I would say Beethoven’s Symphony No.5. Before I was born, I was told I reacted to this piece quite strongly by kicking my mother from inside her belly. I don’t know if they are related, but every time I have played this piece with an orchestra, it was always very memorable.

My answer tends to change somewhat after hearing a great concert, but sadly, the last concert that I attended before quarantine was a while ago. But I still remember the lovely Cavantina of Beethoven’s String Quartet Op.130 performed by the Pacifica quartet with my teacher, Simin Ganatra.

Do you have a favorite memory of something that happened on stage?

As most musicians do, I love the moment when I feel I’m connecting to the audience and we are making a special moment together. Once, I played Brahms’ Violin Concerto with the IU orchestra, and in the second movement, I felt a very strong connection with the orchestra, conductor and audience. It was a beautiful moment and I was so grateful to have that opportunity.

I can’t wait to perform with the ISO because I know how wonderful it will be to create those great connections with great musicians and a great audience every week.

What’s something that people might not know about you?

When I started playing both piano and violin, I was very serious about the piano, and I always wanted to be a pianist. And then I watched that one violin concert…my mind was changed! I still love the piano and admire amazing pianists.

I was supposed to join the ISO right after my graduation, but now I’m staying in South Korea. If I had had some extra time before joining the ISO, I probably would have spent more time with my quartet. Collaborating with other musicians in chamber music and in the orchestra makes life so exciting!

Thanks, Bella! We are looking forward to the day when you can join the ISO and start making wonderful musical memories in Indy!