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A Musician of Note

Violinist Hilary Hahn has a Web site that features monthly journal entries and photos from her trips around the world.

November 15, 2001

At 21, violinist Hilary Hahn is no longer a prodigy--a label she bore since she was 10 and accepted at the highly prestigious Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia. Before turning 15, she had played concerts with the New York Philharmonic, the Philadelphia Orchestra and European orchestras.

But Hahn always had something more than just the spectacular technique that brings attention to a young virtuoso. A poised figure on stage, she was described as "remarkable," by Times critic Mark Swed after a concert last year. "She has the intelligence--and seeming experience--to know how to make the notes on the page speak directly."

Hahn's latest CD (her fourth) will be released this month. It includes Brahms' Violin Concerto, which she will play with the Los Angeles Philharmonic here in May and then on tour with the orchestra in Japan.

Her Web site, at, includes monthly entries in her online journal and digital pictures she takes from around the world.

COMPUTER: IBM ThinkPad, one of the really thin ones. It's all I use because I am on the road more than I am home. I use it mostly for e-mail and the journal.

Question: How did the online journal get started?

Answer: Since I was 12, I have been at the summer Skaneateles Festival in upstate New York. The wife of the host family was a teacher, and her third-grade students were doing a geography project. They were asking everyone to send them a postcard from wherever they went. I sent them one from every city I was in, and when I got back to the school, they had made a book out of all my postcards. I thought it would be fun to continue and do it on a bigger scale, so I thought of the Internet.

It started online in January 1999. I had never signed on to the Internet before that.

Q: That's kind of late for someone of your generation.

A: I never had any need to be online before that. And I guess it runs in the family--I grew up without a television until I was 12, and by that time I was at Curtis. I knew all about the shows from the kids at lunch, but I never actually saw them myself.

I was never immersed in a culture full of gadgets. I like to read and do things like arts and crafts.

Q: So why did you even think of the Internet for your journal?

A: I've always loved writing and photography, and it gave me the chance to keep up those hobbies on a regular basis. I also love to connect with the audience, not just through music but to continue it later on some basis. Also, when I was growing up, I would wonder what it would be like to travel and perform. Now that I get to do that, I give people a chance to know what that is like.

Q: Did you ever keep a paper diary?

A: Every now and then, but not regularly. I would promise myself I would write regularly, but it would never happen. Now it's kind of a self-assignment, something other than music. I love music, but it's nice to have something on the side as well.

Q: What else do you do online?

A: I love the quizzes they have on AOL. Sometimes they test your knowledge and sometimes they ask about how you would approach certain situations. I think I like them because I liked being in school. I even liked taking tests.

HAND-HELD: I had a Palm, but I am not very good with tech. Something happened to it and it didn't work anymore, so I went back to my paper address book. I was never good at reading manuals.

TECH GADGETS: I like my digital camera a lot. It's a Sony with a floppy disk, so I can save the pictures on the computer. I actually did check out the manual on it. I like film cameras too because it's nice to get prints back and have them in my hands. But when I am touring, the digital camera is a lot easier to use.

I also have a pretty sophisticated electronic metronome. It has programs for all sorts of patterns and rhythms. It can even count out the beats with a voice.

Sometimes I hit the wrong button and it starts shouting at me, "One, two, three, four, five!" It's very funny.

I have an electronic tuner that gives the pitch for A, the note orchestras tune on. It's set at 440 [cycles per second], but in Europe the orchestras actually tune on a slightly higher pitch than we use, so I adjust the tuner.

And for traveling, I have a whole bag of electrical and telephone cord adapters I use depending on what country I'm in. If I can't get it to work, I go to an Internet cafe somewhere.

HOME STEREO: I'm not home enough to worry about it much. I do carry a good headset that I use for recordings--checking on edits and those kinds of things. It's a Sony MDR-V6 because that's the one the guys in the recording crew recommended.


As told to David Colker

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