Whiz Kid: Catching up with Juilliard-Bound Ariana Solotoff

Solotoff is performing her senior recital at Oneonta Congregational Church in South Pas Saturday

By Justin Chapman, South Pasadena Patch, 5/12/2011

Ever since she could remember, South Pas resident Ariana Solotoff knew she wanted to be a professional violist. A senior at the Center for Independent Study (CIS) Academy at Pasadena High School, Solotoff, 17, grew up surrounded by music and always had ambitions of attending the prestigious Juilliard School. This month, her dreams came true when she was accepted for the fall 2011 semester. 
"[My mom] had a chamber group, like a string quartet, and they would rehearse at our house back in Long Island," Solotoff recalls. "And when I was about 3 or 4, I would be sitting in the middle of the four of them drawing while they were rehearsing."
To celebrate her transition from high school to college, Solotoff is hosting a recital—which she organized herself—on Saturday at 7 p.m. at . You can expect sophisticated performances from Solotoff and a slew of her friends: pianist Anton Smirnoff, violist Jenni Seo, violinist Erin Dennis and cellist Lindon Chen.
"I am having this recital to sort of finish off the first part of my life with a great performance and to relish in the fact that I have actually become good enough to even think about auditioning at places like Juilliard and Colburn," she said.
It's also a farewell and goodbye to high school and Los Angeles, she wrote on her Facebook event page.
"This performance is a way for me to show how far I've come since I started," she said. "It's like the beginning of me going to college and the end of everything else."
With the help of her private teacher at the University of Southern California, this is something Solotoff decided to coordinate independently from high school. Although Solotoff can also play the violin, clarinet, trombone, guitar, piano and cello, the viola takes precedence and is her main passion. She practices the viola anywhere from 30 minutes to four hours everyday.
"I play viola everyday of my life unless I'm so ill that I can't get out of bed," she said. "These other instruments I have played in the past—I could pick them up again if I wanted to, but I am a violist."
In addition to attending (CIS) Academy, Solotoff attends The Colburn School and takes private lessons at USC with Donald McInnes. (He's a world renowned violist and solo performer who recently went to Beijing and Shanghai to teach seven-hour master classes in Chinese conservatories.) Not to mention, she teaches music at the , which her mother founded, directs and owns.
"[South Pasadena Strings Program] is home to many, many fantastic young musicians who have been to Carnegie Hall twice and so on, and they're getting pretty big," she said, adding: "It's like a little community of little musicians. They're so cute running around with their violins."
With her violinist mother as her first teacher, Solotoff learned how to play the violin when she was about 6 years old. That's when she became interested in playing music. Her favorite kind of music is classical, but she also enjoys Klezmer, a traditional Jewish style of music, and jazz. She tried playing jazz on viola for a while, which she said was a fun experiment.
"This is what I want to do with my life. It's my only passion," said Solotoff. She added: "I don't have a backup plan; I really plan on doing this for the rest of my life. I was born a musician, and I'm going to die a musician basically."