Hilary Hahn made her recording debut at age 16. By her mid-20s, she had become an internationally renowned touring artist. With a distinct, remarkably mature sound, Hahn is a rare gem in the world of contemporary classical music.
Hahn was born in Lexington, Virginia, in 1979. She started violin lessons at age four, studying the Suzuki method at Baltimore’s Peabody Institute. The method is known for focusing on crafting a personalized learning “environment” and fostering individuality in playing. Such training would come to color Hahn’s career, as she’s most well-known for her unique interpretations of classical works.
When she was just ten years old, Hahn was admitted to Philadelphia’s Curtis School of Music, widely considered one of the best conservatories in the world. She studied under Jascha Brodsky, a violinist and teacher who played with the famed composer Sergei Prokofiev and served as Chair of Violin Studies at the Curtis Institute. A year later, at age 11, Hahn made her public performance debut with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra. In 1995, she made her international debut with the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra, and in 1996, she made her Carnegie Hall debut.
Hahn completed her required courses by age 16, but she continued her studies at the Curtis Institute until 1999, when she was 19. But with an already thriving touring career and a major recording contract with Sony Records (signed when she was 16), Hahn was already widely considered a professional.
In 2003, Hahn switched from Sony Records to Deutsche Grammophon. Her first album with them, a collection of Bach and Stravinsky concertos, was awarded with her first Grammy. Since then, she has continued to record as a soloist, with chamber groups, and with larger orchestras. She won her second Grammy in 2008 with as part of a collaboration with the Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra.
Like many contemporary classical musicians, Hahn has added to her repertoire new and commissioned works by contemporary composers. Her first was with Edgar Meyer, whom she commissioned to write her a concerto in 1999. In 2010, her work with Jennifer Higdon won the latter a Pulitzer Prize in Music. Her most recent commission, 2013’s In 27 Pieces: The Hilary Hahn Encores, features short-form works from 27 different composers. Hahn has also collaborated with folk singer-songwriters Tom Brosseau and Josh Ritter, and has even appeared on a number of songs from the indie rock band ...And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead.
But Hahn has gone on record saying her favorite composer in her repertoire is Johann Sebastian Bach. When interviewed by the Saint Paul Sunday classical radio program, she said, “Bach is, for me, the touchstone that keeps my playing honest.”
In 2004, Hahn made her first foray into film scores with M. Night Shyamalan's The Village, which was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Original Score. Since then, she’s recorded music for 2011’s The Deep Blue Sea and 2013’s The Sea.
Hahn continues to solidify her reputation as one of the most unique and forward-thinking artists in the classical genre. Named Time magazine’s Best Young Classical Musician in 2001, Hahn champions a new approach to classical music that defies genre and looks toward greater collaboration between composer and musician. Her music is always tinged with a personal signature, with Hahn always emphasizing a personal, emotional interpretation.