Young Artist Project: USC Thornton School of Music

Olivia Chiang

Olivia Chiang, classical guitar performance
Humans of Classical Guitar 

With an increase in need for not only a more tight-knit community for the classical guitar, but also a destination for guitarists to share their stories and journey to the guitar, I started “Humans of Classical Guitar” to give guitarists the platform to share their voices. 

My project is a multimedia website that encompasses written articles and embedded videos about guitarists around the world that educate and inspire musicians and classical guitar lovers alike. I hand pick the guitarists, focusing on both professional guitarists as well as intermediate players, as I want to demonstrate to the audience that every player despite their experience and level deserves to have their story be told and heard. This will inspire and motivate guitarists to continue performing and perfecting their craft even on an online format for many years to come. 

While I understand that my scope of guitarists I personally know is limited, there is a page on the website that asks for anyone to recommend a guitarist or musician to be featured through a submission form. My aim is for this feature to expand the possibilities of guitarists around the world to be recognized, and to allow for a more collaborative and engaging platform that many guitar enthusiasts will be excited to use and share with their friends. 

Looking ahead, I hope for my Young Artist Project to continue to grow and feature many more musicians to come. I look forward to creating an Instagram to accompany my website, to garner a wider audience and reach to the millions of guitarists that have already found their go-to platform -- it would be a dream for “Humans of Classical Guitar” to be the ideal, perfect destination to not only be featured, but get inspired and motivated to continue pursuing the instrument.

Olivia Chiang was born on December 1999 in Monterey Park, California. She studied piano at the age of five at Yamaha Music School before her father James Chiang, a self-taught musician, guitarist and composer from Taiwan, began to teach her classical guitar when she was seven.

Giving her first public performance for both piano and guitar at Mt. SAC at the age of seven, Olivia continued her study with her father, and received the Music Diploma of Theory and Performance at the Royal School of Music, London, England (ABRSM) when she was 11. She was also selected to attend Christopher Parkening’s masterclass in 2010 and Roland Dyens’ master class in 2011. Olivia was the 2nd place winner of the National Solo Competition from American Strings Teachers Association (ASTA) in 2015. She is also member of American Guitar Foundation, American Guitar Society and Orange County Guitar Circle.

Many composers have composed classical guitar pieces for her, including Richard Glenn (USA), Alex Chudnovsky (Australia), Carlos Atilano (Venezuela), Maurice Sherbanee (France), Amir Abbasi (Iran), Ricardo Boppre (Brazil), and her own father James Chiang. She has also been interviewed by Emma Wang for the Chinese Daily News and Bill Piburn from Fingerstyle Guitar Journal.

Olivia performed Vivaldi’s Lute Concerto (RV 93) with Seraphim Symphony/Irvine Classical Players at the age of 13, with Conductor Maxim Eshkenazy. Soon after, Olivia performed Concierto de Aranjuez and Classical Gas with Dr. Buddy Clements’ symphony orchestra at Walnut High School.

One of the many guitar-related projects that Olivia is involved in is the “A Taste of Spain” series, featuring Richard Foss, a speaker for Spanish culture, Jessica Pacheco, a renowned international flamenco dancer, and Olivia on guitar performing the music of Francisco Tárrega, Joaquín Turina and Isaac Albéniz.

At the age of 12, Olivia made her first video recording – a performance of Bach’s ‘Prelude & Allegro (BWV 998)’ here at GSI – and she followed that with a more recent video, recorded in 2015, of her playing Bach’s ‘Chaconne’– a historic point in her musical career thus far. She is also the first in classical guitar history to video record Barrios’ ‘Variation on a Theme by Tarrega (Lagrima). Olivia continues to stop by GSI and perform annually on very prestigious guitars such as Hauser, Teodoro Perez, Matt Chaffin, Edmund Blochinger and Greg Smallman.

In 2016, she recorded her first solo CD “Sweet Sixteen,” with pieces from the Renaissance, Classical and Romantic period and a contemporary piece composed for her. Her next CD “Bach’s Complete Lute Suites” was recorded in 2018 and 2019 at Meridian Studio, Pasadena, California. 

Olivia is currently studying Music at the Thornton School of Music, University of Southern California with Scott Tennant, Bill Kanengiser, Brian Head and Pepe Romero.


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