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Meet Academy Alumna Emma Steele

Emma Steele, violin  |  Academy graduating class of 2008

Where are they now?  In celebration of the Academy's 10th year, MIC took time to catch up with alumni of the program.


Twenty-five-year-old Emma Steele is a rising young artist renowned for her fresh musical playing style. A Chicago native, she has performed nationally and internationally as a soloist and as part of chamber ensembles in venues such as Orchestra Hall in Chicago, Carnegie Hall in New York, The Rudolfinum Concert Hall in Prague, and Finlandia Hall in Helsinki. She is currently one of the concertmasters of the Royal Danish Opera Orchestra (Det Kongelige Kapel) in Copenhagen.

Steele has participated and won awards in many competitions, including becoming a finalist and receiving the Young Talent Prize in the Sibelius International Violin Competition. She has also received the National Foundation for Advancement in the Arts Silver Award, the WAMSO Elaine Louise Lagerstrom Memorial Violin Award, and a study grant from the International Pablo de Sarasate Violin Competition 2009. She also was a finalist and Silver Prize winner in the prestigious Irving M. Klein International String Competition 2012 in San Francisco.

An avid chamber musician, she has performed on From the Top and multiple WFMT radio shows including Introductions and the Dame Myra Hess Concert Series. As part of the Violin Virtuosi, she was featured in the PBS documentary Circling Around: The Violin Virtuosi.

Steele’s first place awards include the Walgreens, Society of American Musicians Young Artist Division, Chinese Fine Arts Society, Musicians Club of Women, and Union League Civic and Arts Foundation competitions. She has soloed with the Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra, the Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra, the Polish Radio Amadeus Chamber Orchestra, the Chicago Youth Concert Orchestra, the Chicago Youth Symphony Orchestras, the Northwest Symphony Orchestra, and the Carnegie Mellon Philharmonic. She has a bachelor’s degree from Carnegie Mellon University, where she studied with Cyrus Forough, and continued her studies at the Curtis Institute of Music with Aaron Rosand.

What was most beneficial about studying with Mr. Forough and your time at the Academy?

Mr. Forough was my teacher for my years in Academy, and I continued with him at Carnegie Mellon University. He has really been a mentor to me and never stopped pushing me to get to that next level of not just playing notes, but using my brain and becoming a true artist and well-rounded musician.

What were some highlights during your time at the Academy?

One fantastic moment was when my Academy quartet, the Ridere Quartet (myself, Ryan Meehan, Samantha Bennett, and Mindy Park) advanced in the 2008 Fischoff Competition. It was fantastic because we looked around after passing the first round and realized that almost every other group that passed was also an Academy group! We thought, "Wow, Academy is really taking over the competition this year!" It felt great to all work hard together and try to represent and put on the best performances we could.

How do you think the Academy prepared you for conservatory training?

My years at Academy gave me a big head start for my years following at Carnegie Mellon University. The fantastic chamber music was number one; I got a lot of much-needed experience from playing great repertoire with excellent coaches and learning from my fellow musicians as well. It was such a concentrated way to learn, having so many high-level people in one place together. I feel really lucky to have been there.

What is your current position?

I currently work as concertmaster of the Royal Danish Opera Orchestra in Copenhagen, and I've been there two years.

Do you have thoughts about where you see yourself in five years?

I love my job now, so in the future I hope to be in the same or a similar position. I love playing operas, and being a concertmaster gives me the freedom to have a bit of leadership and also do solo and chamber projects with my free time. Therefore I get a chance to play every type of music, as the Academy prepared me for in the first place.


Read more Academy alumni profiles here >>

Reverón Piano Trio

Friday, February 17 at 7:30 pm Venezuelan virtuosos return to Nichols Concert Hall to feature world and Chicago premiere performances not to be missed >>