Ava Klass joined us 15 Jan for our first Instaviews of 2021. Ava Klass, 13-year-old musical prodigy, Trinity College London student and daughter of Myleene Klass, is interviewed by Assistant Editor Saskia Calliste. She discusses music, her recent exams, her hopes for the future, and shares some great stories from her already impressive musical career.
Some parts of the transcript have been edited for accessibility and clarity.
Saskia (Assistant Editor): Hi, how are you.
Ava Klass (Musician): I’m good, thank you. Thank you so much for having me – this is my first interview.
Saskia: No problem at all, thank you so much for being here. Can you introduce yourself and tell us a bit about what you do?
Ava: I’m Ava Klass, I’m 13 and from London. I’ve been playing [the] piano since I was 4, and the cello ever since I was six. At school, I love Spanish, biology and history and English. I’m one-third of ‘Myleene’s Music Klass’, which I do with my little sister [Hero Klass] and my mum [Myleene Klass] and like most people my age I’m obsessed with Billie Eilish and Harry Styles.
Saskia: It’s not even just most people your age, I’m 25, and I love her as well.
Ava: Everybody, all ages; we are all obsessed with them.
Saskia: I hear you have been playing the piano since you were 4, did that influence mainly come from your mum, or was there something else that made you fall in love with music?
Ava: Well, I fell in love with music from a really young age because I’ve grown up in a really musical household. My mum is an amazing performer and musician, so I have just been absolutely surrounded by music. I think I fell in love with it because I was fortunate enough to go to a lot of live events and live music. So, I’ve seen musicals, ballet, music festivals and I’m so grateful for that because nothing beats live music at all: it’s awesome.
I also love music for all the little things I do with my family. We do carpool karaoke; we listen to Little Mix, Beyonce, [we have] our kitchen discos. I absolutely adore music; I’ve always had it around me. I look at my little brother Snoopy – we call him Snoopy – and I can see he’s growing up the same way I did. My mum does this thing on the weekend; it’s pretty special because none of my friends do this over the breakfast table and it’s pretty cool. It’s called ‘mama’s school’; she’ll teach us a bit about music. So, she’ll teach us about a different genre or a different performer. She doesn’t just want us just to know pop music because there are all kinds of music, she wants us to have a well-rounded view and appreciation.
Saskia: You recently took your Grade 8 piano exam [with Trinity College London] at the age of 12 during lockdown no less, which is an amazing achievement. How did you do that? How did you find it? Tell me.
Ava: Well, first of all, full credit to Trinity and the exam boards for keeping the exams going at all. I was really worried at the beginning of Covid. Having put a lot of hard work into my grade 8, and I was worried I wasn’t going to get to do it. And at that point, the only thing worse than doing your exams, was not doing your exam [laughs], so that was great that I got to do it. I think the biggest challenges in doing on an online exam [is that] in a really loud house, my brother was crying, my sister decided now was a good time to cycle past on her bike and ring her bell really loudly. We kind of have a sister code where two bells mean there’s a car, three bells means it’s gone, and she thought that she’d just tell me when I was trying to film [for my exam].
But my favourite memory I think was when my mum went out onto the street and she had to ask our neighbours really kindly if they wouldn’t mind going inside just for 20 minutes as they were playing hockey on the street. So she had to bribe them with our Christmas chocolates, and they graciously accepted. I was a little bit gutted because I lost all the Christmas chocolate, but I got my exam. So, when I see that certificate on the wall, it’s an unforgettable exam that I’m never ever going to forget.
Saskia: That is certainly an exam you won’t forget in a hurry.
Ava: No, we can laugh about it now, but I wasn’t laughing at the time [laughs].
Saskia: So, you play the piano, and the cello is there anything other instrument you are a whizz at?
Ava: No. I played the recorder in year three but other than that, piano and cello.
Saskia: Which instrument do you prefer to play?
Ava: I’ll admit I get really bad stage fright. I don’t think a lot of people know this, but I get quite shaky, I go green, I get really worried especially if I know I’m being filmed for a performance, I suddenly think OMG I’ve forgotten my whole piece. I’ve never really got that with the cello, but I’m really proud of my achievements in piano. I love that it’s an instrument that all the Klass girls play so we can perform together. It’s meant that I have been able to teach my own students and it’s great that we can all jam together. With the cello, I love that it’s my own kind of instrument, so it kind of gives me a sense of individuality. I can play my own pieces, and in all my exams I can have my mum as an accompanist, so it’s really nice.
Saskia: You actually teach your own students as well as, and you’re 13 years old. Where do you find the time to do all of this?
Ava: Oh, I just do it after school and on the weekends. At the moment I’m doing it virtually, that’s a little bit different, but I’m still doing it.
Saskia: And do you enjoy teaching?
Ava: Yeah, I really enjoy doing it; it’s given me a newfound appreciation for what my teachers are trying to do for me. I realise they are not trying to torture me; they just want me to learn the piece. Because I have five pupils under the age of 7, I’ve had a lot of running around, asking for sweets asking every 5 minutes, if they can go to the bathroom etc. sometimes just hiding under the piano itself. I can’t blame them, but it’s definitely made me really respectful of my teachers in my lessons now, it’s made me realise how incredible they are.
Also, it made me realise it takes a whole family’s support to help with music. I’ve been really lucky to have a mum whose an incredible teacher. Even if I’m playing the wrong note and she’s not in the room, she will call out the right ones to me. If I’m stuck, I don’t have to wait an entire week to get the help so, I’ve taken that for granted that I have an amazing teacher who can guide me seven days a week, but a lot of people don’t have that, so it’s made me appreciate my mum a lot more as well.
Saskia: Not only do you do all you do, but you also do a lot of charity work and are one-third of ‘Myleene’s Music Klass’, do you want to tell us a bit about both of those?
Ava: So, ‘Myleene’s Music Klass’ is kind of like a channel that my momager came up with and my sister and I got involved with because at the beginning of Covid, everyone was really really nervous and everyone was going online, and everyone was finding online learning really difficult. At the moment, my sister and I are doing online school, and it can be really challenging. We wanted people to have a really fun and educational channel to go to; we’re on Tik Tok and YouTube, and we just wanted people to feel a little bit better, we wanted to do our bit. There are a lot of people teaching sport, maths but trigonometry is not our forte, so we thought music [laughs]. It’s been really fun. I learnt so much. It’s been really fun to film, and it’s been really fun spending all this time together doing what we love.
Saskia: Yes, everyone moved online to learn something new or stay sane, so it’s really good you all banded together to do that. What about your charity work?
Ava: So, with the charity work, my sister and I saw what kind of impact my mum was having with her ‘Save The Children’. When we were younger, we would see her going away for the trips, but now that we’re a little older we wanted to get involved as well. So, at Christmas time we did ‘Save The Children’ Christmas jumper day at home with our mum. We work at the food bank because my uncle works there so we go there to help load up the trucks and we help pack the bags. It’s been nice because my mum has always done charity work, but this year, we’ve been able to get involved as well.
Saskia: That’s great to hear, you’re a very inspiring young lady you are.
Ava: Thank you.
Saskia: You have played in performances, and with world-renowned musicians, and I know you said you get anxious, but do you enjoy doing live performances? Is it something you want to do more of?
Ava: Yeah, I absolutely love performing. There is no better feeling than when you’re finished, and you go, I used to find that piece so difficult, and I’ve just played it. How have I done that? It’s just a really good feeling. I do get really nervous. Like my first performance was for Prince Charles: I don’t think that can be topped. I was super nervous. I was shaky. I thought I was going to throw up. My sister [Hero] though, funnily enough, she didn’t seem to be nervous at all. She was more worried that everyone was going to eat all the cakes at the cake stand, so that pretty much summed it up. I could see Amanda Holden in the audience, sitting a few feet away from me on the stage was Andrew Llyod Webber himself, staring at my fingers as I was playing. What kept me going was at the corner of my eye I could see my mum at the side of the stage giving me big thumbs up and saying, ‘you got this’. I got through it, and it was the best feeling ever – and we got Hero her cake.
My first job ever was Lang Lang, and he was so amazing. I got there, and there were other teenagers, but I was the smallest, and they were so much older, and I was the only girl. I just felt really small and quite nervous again, but he was so kind. He came over, and I think he could tell I was quite nervous, and he talked to me, asked if I wanted to play my piece for him, and gave me some tips. He played for me and best of all he signed my music book which I have framed downstairs – so that’s the best part. It’s been absolutely incredible to perform from such a young age.
Saskia: Are you looking forward to being able to perform live again?
Ava: Absolutely. I think that everyone is really excited because they’ve really been missing live music and that’s something, we all definitely want to get back to as soon as possible. You’re going to find the Klass girls in action again.
Saskia: Have you thought about doing any online concerts?
Ava: Well, we did an online performance for St Johns Ambulance, and that was amazing. I got to do that with my entire family, and I really enjoyed that. There is also an idea with these online performances that I must find them really easy because like I said before, my mum is an amazing musician. But just to let you know that these performances they don’t come very easily to me a lot of the time. Doing them more often has definitely got my confidence up, but I find it really hard.
I know when I tell people I’m choosing music for my GCSE’s they say, ‘of course you are that’s really easy because your mum plays the piano you must be really good as well’, but I know that I’ve done that in my own right. And when I look at my certificate, I know that my mum got me there, she made sure I practised even when I didn’t want to, and that’s the right thing to do. But I know at the end of the day I got there myself, I am the one who has to play for the examiner and that nobody can take that away from me.
Saskia: Of course, and nobody should try to. It’s good that you hold onto that, forget about what everyone else says.
Saskia: Is music the profession you want to take into the future, or have you not yet thought about it?
Ava: Well, at the moment I think like most people my age we are kind of just flip-flopping everywhere. We are either choosing our GCSE options, or we’re about to – I haven’t done it quite yet – but, last week I wanted to be a marine biologist, this week I might want to be a lawyer. I’m not really sure at the moment, but I know that the skills that music has taught me I’m going to need them in every single performance. The tenacity, the endurance, the literal blood sweat and tears it takes to get an exam or perform. Those are just incredible qualities that musicians have. Music is super important for anything that you want to do, so I’m so grateful I learnt it so young.
Saskia: It’s fine. Most people don’t know what they want to do whether they are 50 or 5, but you have the right mindset, so I’m sure whatever you do, you’ll do it well.
Ava: Thank you.
Saskia: Do you have any advice for other young people taking their music exams?
Ava: It kind of comes down to how bad you want it. So many people are trying to do music, it’s very competitive, so you have to try really hard. With the music industry, I learnt from my mum that it’s not always as glam as it might seem. My mum will be at work before we’ve woken up, and she’ll come back after we’ve gone to sleep again. I’ve seen her spread herself really thin; she’ll balance being a regular mum teaching us spelling and then rushing off for a shoot. I’ve never seen anyone work as hard as her, and she is my inspiration. Lots of people think her job is easy that being a musician is easy, that you just show up and play a piece, but it’s definitely not [like that]. If you want to get into the music industry, you should definitely ask my mum because I’m not quite there yet.
Saskia: So be prepared to work hard, I think that is the best takeaway from that advice.
Find out more about Trinity College London music and drama qualifications or read more case study interviews with young people doing a Trinity qualification.