Indonesian violinist Clarissa Tamara is not yet 20 years old, but she has already achieved what other musicians can only dream of: breaking the world record for the fastest violinist and winning at the Anugerah Musik Indonesia (AMI) – her country’s most prestigious music awards. Music runs in Clarissa’s blood. Her father, Ferdinand Marsa, is an Indonesian pianist, composer and arranger, and Clarissa fell in love with the violin when she was just two years old.

Interview by Yani Lauwoie

But it wasn’t until she was three and a half that she could really start to learn to play. “I asked my parents for a violin lesson, but I couldn’t get one until I was three and a half because, at that time, it was hard to find a teacher who could teach a child below seven years old,” Clarissa recalls.

After learning violin for more than four years, she released her first album in 2008. It was simply called 8 in a nod to her age, marking her as an accomplished musician with a talent to match many adults, demonstrated across 11 songs, including a bonus track. In the same year, Clarissa released a second album, 9 Gifts of Christmas, including festive classics such as ‘We Wish You a Merry Christmas’ and ‘Jingle Bells’.

The following year Clarissa blazed a trail for other young aspiring musicians, winning AMI Awards for Best Artist and Best Instrumental Production Work in the World Music/Instrumental category. “To be honest, I didn’t know what AMI was because I was still a 10-year-old kid. But I was definitely happy to receive the awards,” she says.

How does the recognition affect her? While acknowledging that early success heightens pressure, Clarissa doesn’t see it as a burden. “In fact, it encourages me to keep doing what I am doing and to continue entertaining Indonesian music lovers,” she answers.

Her reputation in the music world was further advanced when Clarissa was recorded by the Record Holders Republic as the World’s Fastest Violinist on June 15 2013, playing ‘Flight of the Bumblebee’ at the mind-blowing speed of 273 beats per minute in 49.42 seconds. Clarissa lists the feat as the most memorable moment in her still young career. “I was 14 years old at the time, while the person who held the title before me was a 33-year-old,” she points out proudly.

Preparing for the performance was almost unbearably tough; Clarissa forced herself to practise six hours a day for 10 months non-stop. “I also had to play the song three times because I was so nervous. So, yeah, it was very hard,” she recalls.

The 19-year-old from Jakarta has also performed in numerous on-air and live events in Indonesia and internationally,
including the annual ChildAid Asia concerts held to raise funds to support arts education for less-fortunate children.

“Through ChildAid Asia concerts, I have met new friends from many countries in Asia, and we collaborate to perform for a good cause. Aside from what I learn through collaborating, I also enjoy the fun moments we share,” said Clarissa, who performed in Japan, Singapore and Malaysia for ChildAid Asia.

Her talent has also been recognised with a full-tuition scholarship at the University of North Texas in the United States, where she is pursuing a bachelor’s degree in violin performance.

“At the moment I am focusing on my studies. I hope I can continue to study towards a doctoral degree. But I am also planning to continue my career as a soloist and orchestra player. I have dreamed of being an international musician since I was a child, so I will work hard to achieve that,” says Clarissa, who lists American violinist Hilary Hahn among her influences.

During our interview, Clarissa, who often travels with Garuda Indonesia, shared her opinion about the flight experience. “I am always satisfied every time I fly with Garuda. I love its services, from the check-in to the friendliness of the cabin crew. I also love the taste of the Indonesian in-flight meals,” she said as the interview wound to a close.