Young Artist Project: Olivia Chiang

By Julie Riggott

A classical guitarist plays her instrument in front of a brightly colored artistic background.
Design by Mingmei Li.

In the second of four profiles, meet a Thornton alum who featured human stories about classical guitarists for her Young Artist Project.

Given free rein to express her unique voice in her Young Artist Project, Olivia Chiang (’22) decided to create a platform for all classical guitarists to share their voices. 

Her multimedia website, Humans of Classical Guitar, features stories and embedded videos about professional, intermediate and beginner guitarists around the world. Her piece on Thu Le, for example, introduces audiences to a successful musician who appreciates the tradition of Vietnamese music and tries to include her native culture in her concerts.

“The classical guitar is not a very well-known instrument, I would say. I guess the genre itself is very niche, compared to the pop scene or jazz scene. In my studio, there were only six seniors,” Chiang said. “The goal of my project was to build a larger community and bring awareness to not only the instrument but the people who play it. I wanted to start something around that which hasn’t been done before.”

A double major in music and journalism at USC, Chiang brought both disciplines to bear in the Young Artist Project.

“I feel like the Young Artist Project was a good segue into what I can do for myself in terms of combining both of my majors. My ultimate goal throughout USC was to find a way to marry the two and make some kind of connection between my two distinctions.” 

Chiang sees a definite future for Humans of Classical Guitar. 

“I don’t want this to be just a school project,” she said. “Not only my project but a lot of my classmates’ projects have the potential to be something bigger.”

May 6th, 2019: Olivia Chiang plays the ‘Gigue’ from the Lute Suite No. 1 in E Minor, BWV 996 by J.S. Bach at the Guitar Salon International showroom in Santa Monica, CA. (Video embed courtesy of Guitar Salon International YouTube channel: @Guitarsalon)

Her immediate goal is to make the site more collaborative and engaging while adding a social media component. She continues to seek out new stories to share and solicits recommendations on the site. 

“My project started out on a smaller scale, but I would love to see it grow into something like ‘Humans of New York,’” she said, referring to Brandon Stanton’s photography project turned New York Times best-selling book series.

In the meantime, Chiang has also taken a job in marketing in the financial technology space. 

“I’m working as a marketing associate at Credit Karma,” she said. “Even though I kind of dug into my Annenberg side a little bit more, doing marketing and communications, I definitely want to continue my music career by teaching and performing and continuing Humans of Classical Guitar.”

“I know a lot of musicians struggle to find a career after college. I feel like the Young Artist Project is really important and necessary in getting them to think about what they can do outside of just performing.”

Photo of a smiling music student holding a violin.
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TAGS: Arts Leadership, Classical Guitar,

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