On April 9, Bloomington violinist Ariel Horowitz performed before an international panel of judges at the prestigious Menuhin Competition in Beijing, China. Ariel, a 15-year-old sophomore at Bloomington High School South, was one of 20 young violinists—including just five Americans—chosen from a field of 230 talented young people from around the world.

The road to Beijing began in 1999 when Ariel, then three years old, and her mother Amy Horowitz were stuck in a Washington, D.C. traffic jam.

“The classical music station was on, and that’s not what I usually listened to,” recalls Amy, the former acting director of Smithsonian Folkways Recordings. “A violin solo came on that Ariel recognized from her Baby Mozart tape. She asked, ‘What’s that?’ I told her it was a violin, and she said, ‘That’s what I want.’”

Amy took her daughter to observe a Suzuki violin class at the Levine School of Music, a nonprofit community music school in suburban Washington. Ariel was mesmerized.

“I got her a little violin and told her first teacher to make the lessons like play dates,” says Amy.

While Ariel whizzed through her Suzuki books, Amy, a folklorist, took a faculty position at The Ohio State University, and the two moved to Columbus in September 2001. At age seven, Ariel began studying with Columbus Symphony Orchestra concertmaster Charles Wetherbee. By 2006, she was ready for even more-advanced training. A friend of Amy’s at Ohio State suggested that Ariel come to Bloomington and play for Mauricio Fuks, the famed professor of violin at IU Jacobs School of Music.

“He told me that if I was willing to work, he would teach me,” says Ariel, who had just turned 11 at the time. “He said he wanted to hear from me, not my mom. Two days later, I called him back and said I was ready.”

For four years, mother and daughter commuted weekly from Columbus for Ariel’s lessons. In August 2010, they moved to Bloomington, where Amy teaches at IU in international studies. Ariel lives the life of a typical teenager—when she isn’t practicing her violin, which she does up to five hours a day.

“It’s a big commitment,” she says. “But I knew that this is what I wanted to do with my life.”

Click here to see more videos of Ariel performing.


Updated May 1, 2012: Click here to see a video of Ariel performing at the Menuhin Competition in Beijing, China.