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12-Year-Old Pre-College Phenom Performs with Seattle Symphony

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SFCM Pre-College student Ava Pakiam performed with the Seattle Symphony as a soloist after being chosen as one of their 2022 Young Artists.

June 8, 2022 by Mark Taylor

By Mark Taylor

"Prodigy" is a big word to throw around, but in the case of 12-year-old Ava Pakiam, not much else comes to mind. The young violinist recently performed with the Seattle Symphony in May after competing in the Seattle Young Artist Competition last year and being named one of their 2022 Young Artists.

Part of her prize was being granted a performance as a soloist with the symphony during their season for an educational event. For Ava, the experience was a dream come true. “It was very exciting to work with such a phenomenal orchestra. They were very approachable and supportive!” Ava performed Saint-Saëns' Introduction and Rondo Capriccioso, and said of the experience, “I learned about projecting my own ideas and energy into the hall. Every interaction I had with the orchestra taught me so much.”

Growing up in a very musical environment, Ava made the trip to Seattle with her family, including her mother Amy Beth Horman. “It’s hard to put into words the value of this time we spent in Seattle. I think we will be seeing and hearing its value for years to come through Ava and we feel immensely grateful,” Horman said. 

Success does not come without hard work, Ava has been part of SFCM’s Pre-College division since she was 7 years old, working with instructor Simon James. “Her enthusiasm is amazing, and her willingness to try new repertoire is rare for someone of her age,” James said of his longtime student, now in the Pre-College Academy, “She is a fearless performer and plays better with an audience than without … this is a rare gift! I am sure Ava will be playing with orchestras around the world in the future,” he added. 

Ava performed inside Benaroya Hall, home of the Seattle Symphony. “It was a pleasure to create this concert with Ava, from repertoire selection to preparatory sessions with our Associate Conductor Lee Mills, ​as well as rehearsing, performing, and capturing her thoughts on the piece for our Seattle Symphony Live program,” said Jérémy Jolley, the Senior Director of Education and Community Engagement. 

While the experience was exhilarating for the young musician, it also taught Ava a valuable lesson in dealing with nerves when performing or auditioning, “Something that has really helped me very much is this phrase: ‘If you feel nervous, embrace it. That might just mean something amazing is about to happen,’” Ava said. 

The trip to the Emerald City will be one young Ava won’t soon forget, but the adventure ended up making a special memory for the entire family, as they were finally able to see close family members they had not seen in person in three years because of Covid regulations. “It offered us an occasion which inspired our family to finally come together after a long time apart,” Amy Beth Harmon said. “We are thankful that the symphony was able to allow our family to gather and hear Ava perform in the hall. I know I speak for all of us when I say it is a memory we will never forget!” she added. 

Learn more about the Pre-College division at SFCM.