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A prodigy heads to Juilliard

Prestigious music school accepts Glendale High School senior after years of intensive training.

May 31, 2011|By Megan O'Neil,
  • Glendale High School senior Ani Bukujian, 18, is the Concert Master of the school's symphonic orchestra, photographed at the Glendale school on Wednesday, May 25, 2011. (Raul Roa/Staff Photographer)
Glendale High School senior Ani Bukujian, 18, is the Concert…

Ani Bukujian wasn’t born holding a violin, but it wasn’t long thereafter that one became glued to her chin.

When she was 2, Bukujian picked up a toy instrument, stood in front of the television and proceeded to imitate the fingering and body movements of the professionals she saw on the screen. At 3, she abruptly stopped a practice session and announced that her instrument — she was training on the real thing by that point — was out of tune.

And once, upon arriving at a concert, she opened her case and discovered three popped strings and a damaged bridge on her violin — a disaster that sent the adults at the scene into a panic. But Bukujian pulled a Niccolò Paganini.

“She played on one string, and she played perfectly,” said her mother, Gayane Burnazyan, herself a professional musician. “Our audience was amazed and speechless. I was amazed myself.”


Now, 16 years and thousands of hours of practice have paid off. Bukujian, 18, a senior at Glendale High School, has fulfilled a life-long dream, earning a spot at the Juilliard School, hallowed ground for the world’s elite instrumentalists. She starts in August.

On Thursday, she performed a solo during her final concert with the Glendale High School orchestra. It was the conclusion to a four-year stint as concertmistress, a title reserved for the leader of the first violin section.

Amy Rangel, director of instrumental music at Glendale High School, described Bukujian as a once-in-a-lifetime student, the perfect combination of talent and hard work.

“You wouldn’t know that she is such a monster on the violin because she is almost a little bit timid and shy as far as her personality,” Rangel said. “But when she picks up that violin, it is almost like fire and magic.”

During her freshman year, Bukujian shared the title of concert mistress with an older student, Rangel said, but then held the position alone for the subsequent three years.

“She earns respect,” Rangel said. “Sometimes when you have a super-talented student, there can be jealousy or animosity. But because she is such a kindhearted person, the students listen to her.”

Bukujian’s success has nothing to do with luck, and everything to do with hard work, Rangel said. She began studying the violin at 3 under the tutelage of her father, also a violinist. From the start, training sessions were intense, often lasting eight hours.

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