VC INTERVIEW | VC 'Young Artist', Violinist William Hagen - Bach, Baseball and Beyond


The Violin Channel recently caught up with 21 year old American VC 'Young Artist' William Hagen, at the Aspen Music Festival and School, in Colorado – where he is this year attending the famed summer festival, as the recipient of the 2014 Dorothy DeLay Fellowship.

Affable, athletic and highly engaging, both on and off the stage, chatting freely over lunch it was hard not to feel that one was in the company of someone unique - someone destined to make significant artistic impact.

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Hi Will. Thanks for joining us here on The Violin Channel -  we're all gold members of 'The Will Hagen Fan Club.'

Tell us about yourself?

"Hi Violin Channel. So great to see you again. Thank you, and I love the VC.

My name is Will Hagen, William Hagen, Will … I go by Will mostly.

I'm 21 years old and I'm from Salt Lake City, here in the United States. I previously studied for 2 years at the Juilliard School with Mr Itzhak Perlman and I currently study at The Colburn School‎, in Los Angeles with Mr Robert Lipsett – in fact, this is my 10th year studying in Mr Lipsett's studio."

He's a wonderful teacher and gentleman. Are you from a musical family?

"No - not at all. My parents are not musicians – but both love music and have a great ear and appreciation.

When I was 3, I apparently heard a violinist at church and I began begging my parents to let me play – to the point of not letting up. On my 4th birthday I received my first violin - and it has all just gone from there."

How did you come to study with Mr Lipsett, at the Colburn School, in Los Angeles?

"When I was 10, my teacher in Salt Lake City suggested to my parents that perhaps I should play for Mr Lipsett.

We flew to LA thinking it was just a masterclass, but at the end he asked me to step outside, and he asked my mother if we would consider moving to Los Angeles. My mother was like 'ummm … no' – but after studying with Mr Lipsett that summer at the ENCORE school, we made the decision to start commuting from Salt Lake City to LA each week for lessons."

So from age 10 to 17, you and your mother would fly 2 hours each week for your violin lessons?

"Yes. When people hear this story they think it must have been the most expensive experience ever. But, my lessons at The Colburn School were thankfully free of charge, and flights planned in advance can be very reasonably priced.

Also after a certain number of trips, we were awarded a 'free companion pass' – which meant my mother and I could share a single fare.

I was incredibly lucky I was able to do this. Big shoutout to SouthWest Airlines (and my mom) – you guys are the best!"

When you were 17, you moved to New York and spent 2 years at the Juilliard School studying with Mr Perlman. How did you enjoy this experience?

"Mr Perlman is my hero. When I was growing up I went through stages of wanting to be a short-stop with the San Francisco Giants or a quarterback for the 49s – but then when I heard Mr Perlman play 'Tempo di Minuetto' on his 'Kreisler' album' when I was about 7, it was at that moment that I realised more than anything else - I wanted to be a concert violinist.

I learnt so much from my lessons with Mr Perlman - and I often tell people that taking a violin lesson from Itzhak Perlman is like taking a basketball lesson from Michael Jordan.

However, at the time I just didn't feel that Juilliard was the right fit for me.

I receive so much support from the Colburn School and from Mr Lipsett, that I can't imagine a better place in the world for me, right now."

Colburn School Robert Lipsett Kevin Lin Simone Porter William Hagen


Tell us about the average day in the life of William Hagen?

"My average day during the school term is 'the violin' - I really do practice a lot. I genuinely love playing the violin and that is why I do it.

I try and wake up early in the morning and go for a run, then I attend my classes and practice.

I am in a long distance relationship, as my girlfriend lives in New York, so I am not that interested in partying during school term - I am definitely not anti-social and I have a ton of friends, but I do my best to maintain focus.

My average day when I'm on vacation is not as intense. I spend much less time on the violin and more time relaxing with friends away from the practice room."

This is your 5th summer here at the Aspen Music Festival and School, and this year you are attending as the recipient of the prestigious Dorothy DeLay Fellowship – how have you enjoyed the experience?

"This summer in Aspen has been undoubtedly the best summer of my life!

I was so fortunate, as part of the festival, to be invited to perform Saint-Saens' 3rd Violin Concerto with the Aspen Philharmonic and Maestro Hugh Wolff, and 3 days later I was back on stage performing Shostakovich's Piano Quintet with Dallas Symphony Concertmaster, Alex Kerr, cellist Eric Kim, violist Mr Masao Kawasaki and pianist Steven Osborne.

The past 2 weeks I have just finished an intensive chamber music programme with chamber music legends, cellist David Finckle and pianist Wu Han – culminating in an awesome performance of Dvorak's Piano Quartet.

Now, next week I will be flying to Marina del Rey for a performance of Tchaikovsky's Violin Concerto.

It's pedal to the metal – and I LOVE IT!"

William Hagen Aspen Music Festival Wolf Orchestra Pic


Do you listen to classical music? If we grabbed your ipod what are we likely to find?

"Yes. I have always been a 'classical music kind of guy', but I also love to listen to many types of music.

A few years ago I attended an U2 concert – and it was one of the coolest things I've ever done in my life. I was completely blown away!

You'll find a bit of everything on my ipod – lots of violin stuff, The Beatles U2, Earth Wind & Fire, Marvin Gaye, Cold Play, Beethoven Symphonies and classical guitar.

If it's good, I'll listen to it."

We have seen you perform a number of times here at the Aspen Festival and at the Menuhin Competition, and you seem very comfortable and in control on stage - it seems like a very natural extension of your personality.  Are nerves ever a battle?

"I'm not going to say I don't get nervous, but I guess I have learnt to control them.

But, believe it or not, I actually find playing for colleagues in studio class, in a dead room, far more nerve wracking than a performance onstage with an orchestra."

Where do you see William Hagen in 5, 10 years time?

"I have learnt never to expect anything. But I would hope I will be playing lots of concerts – hopefully concertos and solo and chamber music recitals.

There is just something about playing a concerto with orchestra – I absolutely love it. I love playing loudly with projection - it gives me such a sense of freedom!"

And finally, Will before we hand you over to your fans on the Channel, describe your ultimate dream concert or recording project?

"I would love to play and record Tchaikovsky's Violin Concerto - coupled with Tchaikovsky's string sextet 'Souvenir de Florence'.

Any nice hall, great orchestra and great conductor is fine with me – I'm not so picky.

The sextet I would love to be comprised of my best friends, actually. I loving playing chamber music with friends.

Absolutely. Will, John Tang, from Twitter would like to know, which violinists have inspired you the most?

"Hi John ... I tend to go through phases of listening to just one violinist at a time. I had a huge Perlman phase and a huge Pinchas Zukerman phase - both have influenced me enormously.

I also really find inspiration in the playing of Nathan Milstein, Henryk Szeryng and David Oistrakh.

More recently I have been obsessed with Aaron Rosand's 'Sarasate' album and Vadim Repin's Franck Sonata – some of the best violin playing I have ever heard in my life.

I too find great inspiration in listening to my peers. I regularly hear amazing performances in our studio classes at Colburn and here at Aspen.

Also recently my good friend, VC 'Young Artist' Chad Hoopes released a recording of the Mendelssohn Violin Concerto - and it's one of the best I have ever heard. I have known Chad since we were very young and he's always been a great inspiration to me."

We heart Chad. Jean from Sydney, Australia, would like to know if it is true you were very nearly a pro baseball player?

"Hi Jean. ** laughs **

I was never going to be a major league baseball player, but I loved playing and I took it pretty seriously - before violin took over my full focus.

I was a member of a travelling baseball team before highschool and we played all over the United States – it was so much fun.

The feeling of hitting a home run is about as close as it gets to playing a concerto with orchestra and receiving a standing ovation."

Thanks Will. Enjoy the rest of your time here at the Aspen Festival, for this year. We will continue to follow your progress closely on the Channel – and we’re super sure you have a long and successful road in front of you.


Instrument: 1675 Andrea Guarneri 
Bow: Ouchard
Strings: Thomastik Dominant G, D & A Violin Strings. Pirastro Wondertone Gold E Violin String.
Accessories: UltraLight Shoulder Rest
School: Juilliard School, The Colburn School
Teachers: Itzhak Perlman, Catherine Cho, Robert Lipsett
Prizes: 2014 Dorothy DeLay Aspen Festival Fellowship