The JOE Trio

Three girls in tutus sit at the fountain

The JOE Trio consists of violin students Josee Xiao (7), Olivia Hsu (6), and Ellen Bae (8). Josee and Olivia, who have known each other since preschool, met Ellen in 2022 at one of The Jam events, PCM’s monthly open-mic series. The three girls became immediate friends and their families started arranging playdates.

One day, as they made T-shirts at The Huntington Library (a regular hangout spot for their families), they thought it would be fun to play at The Jam together. They came up with the name for their trio and the rest is history.

3 young girls holding a sweatshirt they designed for their trio

Now, every Monday afternoon, the sounds of violin and laughter float through the hallway of Kelly Library as the JOE Trio decides on a theme, plans their outfits, selects their songs, and practices for the upcoming Jam. In October, they wore costumes and played spooky Halloween tunes. In February, they celebrated Lunar New Year and their cultural backgrounds, performing traditional Chinese and Korean songs. In March, St. Patrick’s Day. In May, they’ll play “Spring” from the Four Seasons, by Vivaldi. After their weekly practice, the girls and their mothers have a picnic dinner in the library or out in the courtyard.

Each of the girls began at PCM as Young Musicians; Olivia as a 1 year old, Josee as a 4 year old, and Ellen as a student in PCM’s Bridge to Strings programs. In addition to violin, they take piano lessons, Suzuki classes, and music theory classes.

Shortly after Olivia and Josee enrolled in violin, their mothers — Huiqian Chen and Michelle Zeng — started taking violin lessons. Ellen’s mother, Theresia Choi-Bae, often accompanies the Trio on the piano. And in December, the girls and their mothers shared this video wishing the PCM community a happy holiday season.

3 girls in tutus play in the courtyard

In addition to lessons and weekly practice, Josee, Olivia, and Ellen perform in and attend events at PCM. These include the Jam, student recitals, master classes, faculty concerts, and Wicked GOAT, a new concert series for young people. Josee’s one-year-old brother and Olivia’s two-year-old sister are even enrolled in the Young Musicians program. With all their different activities, the families are on campus multiple times a week, with Josee’s and Olivia’s families coming almost every single day!

Since forming the JOE Trio, the girls have not only developed a bond with one another as friends, they’ve found ways to encourage and support one another as musicians. When Suzuki classes broke for summer, the girls used the Marco Polo app to share videos and motivate one another. They responded with videos providing feedback (“I liked your bow hold”) and were excited to share short passages they had mastered. If they struggled with a particular passage, they would watch and imitate how one of the others played it. “This really inspired the girls and helped them work through and learn new pieces,” said one of the mothers. Practice has become less work, offering them positive peer pressure and social learning opportunities.

“We are so grateful that PCM provides the space to develop these friendships. It has helped us expand our social circle and has enriched our musical life because of our interactions and involvement with each other.”

3 girls with violins on stage

Questions for the JOE Trio

PCM: Do you have a musician you most look up to?
Josee: Lindsey Stirling, who also dances while she plays
Olivia: Hilary Hahn and Ray Chen
Ellen: My cousins Holly (cello) and Sarah (violin)

PCM: Do you have a favorite concert that you’ve attended?
Josee and Olivia: A concert by Miles Chan, who plays violin. He’s a student doing his postdoc at Caltech. We met him at the Arlington Garden last December when we were practicing outside. He played with us and invited us to his concert at Caltech. We also saw him at ArtNight!
Ellen: A performance of the Four Seasons by Vivaldi, performed by a youth orchestra.

PCM: What made you want to learn violin?
Josee: My grandma played violin when she was younger. My mom also helped me pick the violin.
Olivia: I saw the Frozen show and wanted to learn violin after seeing the orchestra.
Ellen: The violin sounds really pretty and I remembered my cousin playing the violin.