Clara Engen


Hometown: Minneapolis, MN
Alma maters: Oberlin College and Conservatory
Appearances: Oberlin Orchestra, 2011–16; Oberlin Orchestra tours–Carnegie Hall, 2013, Chicago, 2016; Instructor at Chamber Music Workshop with Cuarteto Girasol, Panama, 2015; Instructor with Oberlin in the Panama Project, 2014–15; Teaching Fellow with MusAid, Belize, 2014; Brevard Music Festival, 2013; Madeline Island Music Festival, 2012
Musical origins: I started violin at the age of 8 after I found my mom’s old violin underneath her bed and begged to learn how to play it.
Favorite piece to play: Prokofiev String Quartet op. 92 is really fun to perform—I love the expansiveness, the lonely tragedy, and the biting sarcasm of the piece.
Favorite obscure piece: Carlos Chávez’s Tres Espirales
Favorite musical memory: When I was eleven, my youth orchestra did a mass performance of the slow theme from Jupiter by Gustav Holst. I remember standing in the center of the hall, totally overwhelmed by the power of 400+ musicians filling up the space from the stage, the aisles, and the balconies—it was the loudest and definitely the most emotional experience of my music education as a kid.
Which composer would have had the best social media: I’d love to see Dvořák snapchatting his way through Midwestern Americana in 1893. Plus, he’d probably have some passionate social media posts on racism and musical culture in the U.S.
Musical guilty pleasure: I don’t think any music is a “guilty” pleasure—that being said, my favorite type of music outside of classical is electroswing.
Favorite non-musical hobby: I make jewelry!
Favorite painting: Nighthawks by Edward Hopper
Piece of advice for a young classical musician: Embrace your talent with the knowledge that your musical character is not determined by your technical mistakes.