When Julie Coucheron was a Norwegian 3-year-old, taking to piano like a fish to water, who knew she’d end up settling in Georgia?

Born in Oslo, she started performing and winning prizes as a young child, then studied in Philadelphia and London. In 2014, she accepted a position at Kennesaw State University, joining her brother, Atlanta Symphony first-chair violinist David Coucheron, in making music in the South.

Here, among other activities, Julie Coucheron acts as artistic director of the Georgian Chamber Players. The group is gearing up for its 2023–2024 season. In the meantime, you can hear highlights from past concerts on GPB’s Front Row Georgia throughout September. Julie recently sat down in the studio with show host Sarah Zaslaw.

Members of the Georgian Chamber Players. From left to right: violinist David Coucheron, pianist Elizabeth Pridgen, pianist and artistic director Julie Coucheron, and violist Zhenwei Shi.

Members of the Georgian Chamber Players, from left, include violinist David Coucheron, pianist Elizabeth Pridgen, pianist and artistic director Julie Coucheron, and violist Zhenwei Shi.

Credit: Alice Hong

Interview highlights

Edited for length and clarity


On overcoming being picked on as a kid

It started when I was about 6, 7 years old. I was different, always. It was not cool to be a pianist at that point. I was practicing a lot. My mom used to dress me in cute dresses, and I thought they were really pretty but it wasn’t the cool thing to do for those kids. And I had curly hair, which was also not cool. It was probably at that point I started to get shy and nervous around people, and it kind of brought me into a shell. I was lucky because I have a wonderful family and we were really, really close; my brother and I have been best friends since as long as I can remember. It was only when I came to the U.S., when I was about 12 years old, that I started to connect with other musicians and actually feel like I was appreciated as a musician, and as a person, really. So I came out of that shell, and I’m definitely not shy anymore.


On the range of students she teaches

I get from beginners to very advanced. I’ve had students that have been ages 4 and 5, and my oldest student right now is 92. I love teaching older students because I feel like it really adds to their lives. I actually just came from teaching my oldest, and she told me that I basically am the reason why she’s alive. So that means a lot.


A Norwegian’s-eye view of Atlanta, pro and con

The music community here is wonderful. I have so many amazing friends that are colleagues as well. I never in a million years thought that I would have so many beautiful friendships come out of being here. I love that about Atlanta, and a great audience. So that’s a great plus. I miss the ocean and I miss mountains. We have a house at Lake Lanier and, you know, it’s water and there are mountains. So I’m compromising. But I miss the nature in Norway.


On pandemic-era performances

I had all these scheduled concerts, and then all of a sudden everything was just wiped out. And that got really depressing. I was thinking about ways to perform and do something that’s not required to have an audience there. So I teamed up with First Presbyterian Church, and we created an online series. Those were so popular we ended up doing five of them. That’s a tribute to how many wonderful musicians there are here in Atlanta, because they all did that for free. We all just came together. We got donations and I was able to pay them, but we didn’t know that when we first started.


On how the Georgian Chamber Players choose their repertoire

We try to do that together as a team. Since we only have about three or four concerts a year, it’s important that everybody gets to play something that they want to do. We usually have a meeting or an email chain about what people want to play, and then I try to make a program out of that.


On opening night this fall

We’re opening at Eddie’s Attic on Nov. 15. We’re going to do “musical fireworks,” which means virtuosic, exciting pieces. We’re doing the Mendelssohn Piano Trio No. 1; we’re going to do the Ravel La Valse for piano four-hands. It’s going to be enjoyable for every listener, even if you haven’t been to any classical concert before, or if you are an avid chamber music listener.


On two pianists at one piano

My [four-hands piano] partner here, she’s now my best friend, Elizabeth Pridgen, and we have a lot of fun together. But you have hands over each other all the time, under. You know, you’re kicking each other, the pedal goes both ways, I’m sometimes playing the pedals, she sometimes plays, we change up so much. At one point, I even scratched Liz on her hand and she had a big, bloody scratch. It’s definitely a battle sometimes doing piano four-hands.


Georgian Chamber Players pianists Julie Coucheron, in red, and Elizabeth Pridgen, in blue, perform a four-hands version of "The Moldau" by Bedrich Smetana (starting at the 20:35 minute mark).