Featured Soloist : Ethan Haman, organ
EthanHaman from Fremont, CA, is the organist and assistant conductor at Noroton Presbyterian Church in Darien, CT, and organist at Yale University’s Marquand Chapel. He has just graduated with Master of Music and Master of Musical Arts degrees in Organ Performance at the Yale School of Music and Institute of Sacred Music studying organ with Jon Laukvik, Craig Cramer, and Martin Jean, while studying improvisation with Jeffrey Brillhart. In 2019 he graduated from the University of Southern California’s Thornton School of Music as a Presidential and Discovery Scholar with a Bachelor of Music degree, where he double majored in Organ Performance studying with Cherry Rhodes and in Composition with Morten Lauridsen, Andrew Norman, Donald Crockett, Sean Friar, and Daniel Temkin.
During his studies at USC, Ethan served as organist for Knox Presbyterian Church in Pasadena and was the organ improvisation instructor for the San Francisco Peninsula Organ Academy. He was also organist for the Extraordinary Form Latin Mass offered by the Fraternity of St. Peter at St. Victor Catholic Church in West Hollywood, where he improvised all of the music every Sunday evening.
Ethan studied organ and composition from 2008 to 2015 with Angela Kraft Cross, and was the organist of Christ Episcopal Church Los Altos from 2011 to 2015. He went on several study trips to France on scholarships from USC and the S.F. Peninsula Organ Academy to study organ interpretation and improvisation with master organiste titulaires on the historic organs of Notre Dame Cathedral, Ste. Clotilde Basilica, the churches of Notre Dame d’Auteuil, St. Sulpice, St. Gervais, and St. Séverin in Paris, as well as St. François-de-Sales church in Lyon. Ethan has performed in such notable venues as Davies Symphony Hall in San Francisco, the Walt Disney Concert Hall and Cathedral of Our Lady of The Angels in Los Angeles, Harvard University’s Adolphus Busch Hall, Notre Dame d’Auteuil in Paris, the 2017 Montréal Organ Festival, and the 2018 Oregon Bach Festival.
The USC University Chorus commissioned and premiered his choral compositions for several performances in recent years. The American Guild of Organists commissioned Ethan to compose and premiere his “Toccata on Hyfrydol” at Christ Cathedral Arboretum in Garden Grove, CA for their 2019 West Region Convention, and he enjoys regularly teaching improvisation both privately and in workshops for universities and local chapters of the AGO. His “Southern Harmony Suite” was commissioned by the AGO and premiered by Abraham Wallace as one of four winning proposals for the 2020-2021 Student Commissioning Project. Singing City choir commissioned and premiered his newest choral composition “A New Day is Rising,” set to poetry written by the 2020-2021 Philadelphia Youth Poet Laureate, Cydney Brown. Most recently, Ethan was a finalist in the National Competition in Organ Improvisation at the 2022 Seattle Convention of the AGO and won the Audience Prize. Scores for his compositions can be found at SheetMusicPlus.com.
Ethan also enjoys recording organ videos for his YouTube channel as well as studying foreign languages; he currently speaks English, French, Spanish, European Portuguese, Cantonese, Mandarin Chinese, and is currently learning German and Korean. (To watch Ethan’s performance video clips, search “Ethan Haman organ” on YouTube).
Featured Soloist : Jasmine Jin, piano
A Joyous Passion
Jasmine Jin (Flintridge Preparatory School, 9th grade, 2018-19)
Since I could walk, I’ve always had a vivid memory of playing piano. I played on my grandma’s Yamaha baby grand, my fingers so small they barely had the strength to play a note on the keys. At play dates and birthday parties, instead of sharing stories, my friends and I shared performances of who could play the better version of Beethoven’s Fur Elise, the best performer receiving a rousing round of applause from the eager parents with their cameras, documenting every moment.
Since learning music at a young age, I’ve always learned to dream big, no matter how impossible the goal sounds in the first place. My grandma’s dream was to see me perform at Carnegie Hall, and it happened during the winter of 2016 and again in the spring of 2018. I still remember the bright stage lights beaming down onto the massive concert Steinway, a piano I saw in my dreams of playing. My fingers danced across the keyboard as I was living through something that I had never believed would register as reality.
I joined my elementary school orchestra as an oboe player in fourth grade and was completely taken aback by the other side of classical music. Orchestra was all about teamwork, unlike my piano life centered around my performance only. For the first time, I was unable to perform consistently and in-tune with the rest of the group. But when it came back to the piano, it was always effortless. I’ve been in many competitions and testing methods; from SYMF to the Los Angeles International Liszt Competition, from CM to ABRSM. After coming to Flintridge Prep, Dr. Margitza and Mr. Hill took me under their wing and taught me how to be a stellar soloist and how to collaborate with both vocal and orchestral groups. Dr. Margitza also opened my eyes to the wonderful world of jazz piano, something outside of my normal comfort zone of classical piano.
Starting high school, homework and extracurriculars became more hectic. Sometimes, I felt like my day was on fast-forward until my hands were at the piano in the school practice room, the auditorium, the black box, the music room, or at my home piano. All time would stop as I would play the first few notes, and the feeling of childhood parties and gatherings always comes back. Music has been with me for as long as I can remember, and for that I need to thank my piano teacher Ms. Lily Chen who’s been there for me through all my highs and lows, as well as friends, family, and teachers who have supported every step of joyous passion up to this point. A new bit is about thanking my teacher Dr. Amy Chen (To watch Jasmine’s performance video clips, search “Jasmine Jin piano” on YouTube).
Featured Soloist : Alex Mirzabeigi, marimba
Taking the Music Bull by its Horns
Alex Mirzabeigi (Flintridge Preparatory School, 9th grade in 2018-19 school year)
I started playing music at a very young age, honestly earlier than I can remember. My parents are not musical, but as long as I can think back, we always had music playing at home. I am told my musical adventure started with playing on my mom’s pots and pans. I remember looking forward to spending time with my dad on Saturday morning at the REMO Drum Circles. These Saturday morning outings eventually led to private drum lessons and I ultimately auditioned and was accepted to the Colburn School of Performing Arts.
In elementary school, I had the chance to try out various instruments for my school’s band. During that process, I learned something about myself. I figured out that I had an innate quality that prompted me to be curious about many different instruments and have an open mind to learn something new. I remember my mom being puzzled as to why I would pick to play the clarinet for my school band instead of percussion, which I was already studying. My answer to her question was that “I wanted to learn something new”. Everyone always questions me how I handle playing a difficult instrument such as the Marimba. I tell them that it’s just like a piano with different looking black and white keys! It’s a matter of having a different ‘see’.
Fast forward to 2013, when I played as a soloist with the LA Dream Orchestra on the stage at Zipper Hall. I had been on that stage many times for the Colburn recitals and performances, but performing as a soloist with a full orchestra was a whole new experience for me. I thrived on the nervous energy that came over me as I stepped foot on stage. In June 2019, I was back at Zipper Hall performing as a solo pianist and marimbist with the Los Angeles Sinfonietta.
I don’t take any of these opportunities for granted. I look at them as my chance to explore and learn more about myself. I am not sure where this music path is going to take me. I am enjoying taking this time to figure out who I am and what’s in store for me in the future.
I am thankful for my parents, family, friends, teachers, role models and anyone else I meet on my life journey (To watch Alex’s performance video clips, search “Alex Mirzabeigi marimba” on YouTube).
Featured Soloist : Festival Honor Trio
Alyssa Huang, piano; Daniel Young, violin; Hannah Kim, cello
Alyssa Huang (Beckman High School, 10th in 2018-19 school year): One day when I was four years old, I heard my nanny playing on the piano, and I was im- mediately captivated by the beautiful melody and begged her to teach me. I picked up the instrument quickly, and before long, I was able to play a short Clementi sonatina. Seeing my fascination with the instrument, my parents found me a well-known teacher at a piano studio an hour drive away. This began my journey with the piano. For the next 6 years, whether it was Christmas day or my birthday, rain or shine, I never missed a single lesson.
At the age of eight, I performed for the first time in Carnegie Hall. Everyone around me was proud of this achievement, my parents, my teachers, my school district, and especially myself — suddenly all those long hours of practicing seemed quite rewarding. Since then, I’ve performed in many beautiful places, including New York, Vienna, Moscow, and St. Petersburg. I got chances to attend masterclasses and meet friends around the world who share the same passion and love for music as I do. Learning piano had opened a whole new world for me, and I’ve discovered many things within myself as a result.
Now, I’ve been playing the piano for 12 years. I enjoy using my music skills to serve the community, from performing at senior centers to fundraising to provide clean water for Vietnamese kids. To me, music is a beautiful existence: no matter what language you speak or where you’re from, music can touch your hearts. Learning piano has not only connected me to people around the world, but also allowed me to express myself, to persevere, and most importantly it enabled me the power to give back (Alyssa Huang).
Daniel Young (Cleveland Humanites Magnet School, 9th in 2018-19 school year): When I was five years old, a quartet came to play at my elementary school. The performance was in a small room. I was close to the musicians and could hear every nuance of their playing. It was as if I could feel the music. Something about the violin in particular intrigued me. I came home that day and told my mother that I wanted to learn how to play that instrument. Thus, my journey began.
I joined a small orchestra program at my school and a junior orchestra at the Kadima Con- servatory of Music. The more I practiced, the more opportunities I had to play more beau- tiful and complex music. I am now honored to be the concertmaster of the Kadima Con- servatory Philharmonic.
As I became more involved in music, I began to explore other genres. I began playing classi- cal guitar and later played lead guitar and vocals in a rock band I formed with my fellow conservatory musicians.
Middle school introduced me to jazz, and I became a member of the Millikan Performing Arts Magnet Jazz Band. I am now lead guitar in the Cleveland High School Jazz Ensemble and play percussion in the Cleveland High School Advanced Band. Almost every free mo- ment I have, I spend either playing or composing music. It is my passion.
Music is the universal language. It has the ability to convey emotions and connect humans in a unique and transcendental way. Even after all these years of playing in scores of en- sembles, each time I play, I am still as moved as I was that day I first felt the music in my elementary school. As I look toward college and my future, I know that whichever path I choose, music will be involved.
I am very grateful to the Performer Selection Committee for giving me this opportunity to make beautiful music with these remarkable musicians. I am also grateful to all my music teachers including, Eric K.M. Clark, Beth Elliot, and Ariana Major, for starting me on this journey and continuing to nurture my passion for music (Daniel Young).
Hannah Kim (The Archer School for Girls, 11th in 2018-19 school year): My introduction to music began with piano lessons at the age of five, just like many other children who are dropped off at music school by their parents. I switched to the cello at the age of eight after I attended an orchestra recital as an audience member where I was overwhelmed by the emotions brought on by the music. My parents have always support- ed my interests in music, and their continued support is a source of strength for me. And playing the cello is how I became best friends with patience and perseverance.
Learning to play Czardas was both an ambitious and joyful experience for me. From what starts out like an incomprehensible series of notes, the phrases and patterns translate into a dramatic, entrancing story. I believe that my job as a musician is not only to tell you where the story goes but to lead you off-stage to a place where you can use your imagina- tion to fill in the details in your own personal telling.
Author Matt Haig says it best: “Music doesn’t get in. Music is already in. Music simply un- covers what is there, makes you feel emotions that you didn’t necessarily know you had inside you and runs around waking them all up. A rebirth of sorts.” I hope as you listen to the music played for you this evening, ever so latent parts of you will stir and leave you restless and anew.
Thank you, Performer Selection Committee members, for giving me this remarkable opportunity to perform tonight and share a moment of bliss with others through music (Hannah Kim).
Featured Soloist : Robert Young, viola
Robert Young (Cleveland Humanities Magnet, 10th grade in 2019-20 school year)
When I was five years old, my mom put a violin in my hands for the first time and told me to practice. I started taking violin lessons, and I joined a small string ensemble at my elementary school. At first, I did not know what to think of music. There were many late nights filled with stress as I begged my mother to let me skip practicing. However, as I began to play more and meet new people, I realized how much I actually loved music.
I started playing in a junior orchestra at the Kadima Conservatory of Music, and when I reached the age of eight, picked up my first viola. I started to realize how unique and truly extraordinary music is. The ability to express emotions with a musical instrument is an amazing experience. As I met people within my orchestra who would eventually become some of my best friends, music started to become even more special. I discovered a special connection with other musicians that is unique and that I simply cannot share with anyone else.
When I got to middle school, I began exploring other genres of music, joining a jazz band and a rock band. In high school, I am now in marching band, drumline, concert band, jazz band, and a string ensemble, and I play the viola, bass, snare drum, and other percussion instruments. I also continue to play in Kadima’s orchestra programs, where I am principal violist. Music has become my life. Playing music with my best friends fills me with the greatest joy, and I do not know what I would do without it. Although I am unsure about what career I want to pursue, I know that music will always be part of my life.
And now, as I remember practicing late into the night, tears clogging my vision and dripping down onto my instrument, begging my mom to let me skip practice just this one time, I realize, it was worth it. I know that playing music will bring me joy for the rest of my life. For this, I am so grateful to Beth Elliot, my viola teacher, and to all my music teachers and mentors. I am especially grateful to the Performer Selection Committee for giving me this opportunity to make music with these remarkable musicians.
Featured Soloist : Liam Thomas, violin
Liam Thomas (Royal Cedar Academy, 2nd grade in 2019-20 school year)
Liam was just shy of 2 years old when he first heard the sweet sound of a violin. I showed him a video of an orchestra performing a classical piece to help Liam learn about different musical instruments. Suddenly, the violin solo began and Liam’s bright eyes widened. He immediately asked which instrument that was and, when told it was a violin, he exclaimed “I like it!”. A few months passed and Liam’s 2nd birthday was fast approaching. When I asked him what he would like for his birthday, Liam had one confident answer: “A violin!”. I did not even know that violins came in such small fractional sizes, but the search for a small violin suitable for 2 year old little fingers began. On his birthday, Liam was thrilled to open the mysterious black case which held what would soon become his most prized possession: a violin.
Over the next 6 months, I contacted several private teachers and music institutes to secure a violin instructor for our eager 2 year old son. However, the response was always, “he is too young, wait until he is about 5 years old, no need to rush.” Every day Liam would take out his violin and try to play it. As no violin teacher could be found for a 2 year old, I watched many videos on violin technique to be able to teach Liam a little bit about his precious instrument. Finally, after months of searching, I learned of a teacher who had a 3 year old student in her music studio. Promptly, I contacted her and asked if she would just meet Liam for a trial lesson. When she agreed, Liam was overjoyed. A few days later, Liam was standing in the Coo Family Music Studio in Loma Linda, CA, with a 1/16 size violin in his hands, listening carefully to the instruction of Ms. Cecilia Coo Cruz. That was the beginning of a beautiful musical journey that has enriched not only Liam’s childhood and life, but also that of our family, church and community at large.
Ms. Cruz and her music studio have provided Liam with countless performance opportunities on local television, numerous churches, ensembles, private events and senior communities, often accompanied by the wonderful Mrs. Corazon Coo or Liam’s friend, Brian Calaguas on piano. He has participated in music camps, workshops, competitions and orchestras. Liam’s passion for the violin is evident in his eagerness to always accept an invitation to perform and bring joy to an audience. His most exhilarating experiences thus far, however, have been playing with the Los Angeles Youth Philharmonic orchestra alongside talented musicians that have inspired and helped strengthen his skills. As he continues to progress musically and enjoy fruitful partnerships with other young musicians, Liam’s love for the violin is perpetually growing into what we hope will be a lifetime passion and service for God’s glory (This essay is written by Irina Thomas, Liam’s mother).
Featured Soloist : Nikka Gershman-Pepper, flute
Sounds of Music
Nikka Gershman-Pepper (Mirman School, 6th in 2019-20 school year)
I remember the day when I woke up asking my mother for a flute. I wanted a chance to play an instrument that sounded so beautiful, dramatic, and looked shiny. After waiting for a few long weeks, the instrument finally arrived in the mailbox. My first memories of the flute were when I was unboxing the large, brown package with my future inside it. Somehow, I quickly figured out how to play a basic melody. I had been playing the piano for almost four years by then, but when I discovered the flute, I knew right away that this was my passion.
Soon after, I joined the school orchestra. Even though I was still a beginner, my teacher believed in me and encouraged me to join the Honors’ orchestra, made up of talented young musicians from almost every school in the city. Within a year, I found myself playing a concert at UCLA’s Schoenberg Hall. During my second year in the orchestra, I was lucky to be offered the position of principal flutist. This was an amazing opportunity for me. I will never forget my first orchestra.
In April 2018, I was invited to perform at Carnegie Hall in New York. Playing in front of a large audience in a famous auditorium made me anxious, but once I got up on stage, I felt like I was flying. All my nerves disappeared, and I felt one with my instrument. Just recently, in March 2019, I won the Whittier Young Artists’ competition. Because of this, I was given a chance to play as a soloist with the Whittier Regional Symphony. This was truly a magical experience. In the same year, I was thrilled to be accepted into the Los Angeles Youth Philharmonic. Playing in an orchestra is very special. When everyone comes together on the night of the show, all the hard work pays off. This is my favorite part of being a musician.
Behind all of this is the dedication and knowledge contributed by my teacher. I am truly thankful to Diana Morgan, my mentor, who continuously helps me through my journey. I am also extremely grateful to my wonderful family. They always support me. I am ready for a new chapter of my music path – whatever that might be!
Featured Soloist : Allison Kuan, flute
Blessings through Music
Allison Kuan (Mountain View High School , 10th in 2020-21 school year)
When I first picked up the flute in 5th grade, I was hesitant to express my interest in it. I had wanted to play the saxophone but was turned away for having a small stature. In fact, I cried the day I first got my flute for band. Despite my initial reaction, I was still determined to excel at it and began taking private lessons at the Community School of Music and Arts (CSMA), a non-profit art and music academy. After my first year of private lessons, I auditioned for the Merit Scholarship Program at CSMA, which consisted of the best musicians within the academy. I joined in 2016 at the lowest level and quickly progressed to the highest level, where I was able to develop my stage presence, musicality, and ensemble experience. It was during this time that I learned to love the flute.
My skill level in flute skyrocketed during my freshman year of high school when I joined the Los Angeles Youth Philharmonic Orchestra (LAYPO) in a performance at the Walt Disney Concert Hall in downtown Los Angeles. The performance setting pushed me to practice harder pieces as well as gain orchestral experience. The following winter, I was invited to perform as a soloist for LAYPO. While it took me four hard months to practice the piece, my solo only lasted under ten minutes long. Through all that practice, however, I was able to improve my flute skills. In 2020, I was invited again to perform as a soloist in LAYPO’s winter virtual concert. With all the experience I had acquired, I decided that I wanted to start teaching others how to excel at playing the flute, so I took the ABRSM level 8 flute test and passed with “Distinction.” From there, I have been teaching flute to high schoolers who are not able to afford private lessons.
Within my school, I was heavily involved in the instrumental program. I was the Drum Major of the Mountain View High School Spartan Marching Band during the 2020-2021 band season as well as the flute section leader for my school’s Wind Ensemble. I’m extremely grateful for the musical leadership opportunities I have gained within my high school.
I would like to extend a special thank you to the Los Angeles Youth Philharmonic Orchestra for providing so many opportunities for me to expand my musical abilities. LAYPO has worked hard to create beautiful concerts both in-person and virtual, and I am truly grateful to be selected as a soloist twice by the Performer Selection Committee. I would also like to thank my teachers, Dr. Chin-Fei Chan and Mrs. Dawn Walker, for helping me get to where I am in my music career.
Featured Soloist : Cassie Kao, flute
Passion into Purpose
Cassie Kao (Acadia High School, 9th grade in 2019-20 school year)
For much of my life, I have been surrounded by music. Whether it is playing Moonlight Sonata on the piano, practicing Ibert Concerto on the flute, having worship jam sessions on the guitar at church, or singing to Euphoria at the top of my lungs, music has been the center of my world. I started piano lessons when I was four-years-old, and my eyes were opened to a whole other world of scales, arpeggios, and melodies. I found myself jumping onto the piano bench and closing my eyes as my tiny fingers pranced along the black and white tiles of the dance floor. In my elementary years, I began to pick up the violin and flute. That was the first time I experienced the community that music could provide.
As a middle schooler, I immediately fell in love with the world of orchestral music and marching band. Throughout my seven years as a flutist, I have been blessed with many opportunities to hone my skills and confidence. I have been a part of the Pasadena Youth Philharmonic since 8th grade and was selected to be part of the Southern California School Band and Orchestra Association Honor Groups for four consecutive years. I was also awarded 1st place in the Diamond Bar Performing Arts Contest, the Music Scholarship Competition of the MTAC LA Branch, and the International Music Talent Competition of American Protege, which gave me the privilege of performing as a flute soloist at Carnegie Hall. However, the journey has not been entirely smooth-sailing–I have faced my fair share of failure, but I am thankful that they taught me humility and to attribute all my successes to God, the Giver of all things.
Furthermore, as my marching band runs across the football field at double time, chins high and feet flexed, I have learned the importance of perseverance, discipline, leadership, teamwork, and multi-tasking. Playing an instrument is already challenging, but marching band requires flawless technique in both the visual and musical aspects. The phrase “Arcadia High School Marching Band” is more than a name to me; instead it represents the group of people who I have cheered and cried with during awards ceremonies as we shout “Band Atten-hut ‘Pache”.
Music has been a comforter and a teacher. It has taught me self-expression while learning from other’s stories. Music has allowed me to cross boundaries and reach out to those who are less fortunate, especially during this time of hardship and uncertainty. This summer, as COVID-19 affected every aspect of our lives, it was particularly detrimental to those with special needs. I started by recording worship songs and prayers for ventilator-dependent kids isolated in long-term care facilities. With God’s grace, I set up a music wellness program with my church youth group for kids with special needs. I have about ten one-on-one sessions with the kids in special education classes where I teach them to play the piano, ukulele, and sing. Music has done wonders for relieving stress and expressing emotion, and it has been so encouraging to see that it has worked for others as well. It is truly inspiring to see the kid’s smiles as we sing “The Wheels on the Bus” or “Jesus Loves Me,” and how even listening to a simple tune on the guitar can create peace. Each week, the students come back with a better attitude and greater love for music. Interacting with them has shown me that I am not the giver, but actually the receiver. I have seen how God has worked in both me and the students to form friendships and a willingness to love Him more.
I am so grateful for the many wonderful opportunities that I have been given and for the incredible effort that my parents and teachers have invested into my musical education. In particular, my teachers Mr. Danielson (First Avenue Middle School), Ms. Amy (flute), and Ms. Lily (piano) have inspired and encouraged me whenever I doubted my abilities. I am forever grateful for their sacrificial love and I know I would not be where I am today without them.
COVID-19 has forced me to take a step back, so that I can stop thinking solely about myself and begin to love the people around me more selflessly. Because of my great passion for music, interest in the medical field, and desire to help others, I hope to become a music therapist and continue sharing the gift of music with others.
Featured Soloist : Shirylnn Chan, flute
Shirlynn Chan (Westridge School, 11th grade in 2019-20 school year)
I had a passionless love with music before I met the flute. The piano and the violin did not bring me euphoria, and I did not find in them the release I sought from whatever captivity 5-year-old me thought that I was held in. This period of feeling restrained because I couldn’t find the perfect outlet for artistic expression continued until the fateful day that I randomly chose to learn the flute to fulfill the 4th grade music requirement. It was through serendipity that I found my voice. Playing the flute brought me a sense of power and control as an intersectional use of a multitude of parts on my body is necessary to create a sound that is both delicate yet also unrelenting. I finally found an instrument that would listen to my commands. Additionally, learning the flute led me to discover my work ethic. I familiarized myself with the busy activity inside of my brain as I tried to multitask between breath control, pitch, rhythm, and transformation of emotion into physical movement. This carried over into academics and other extracurriculars as I now feel uncomfortable when I am not overworked.
My musical journey consists of competitions, orchestral performances, volunteer work, and tests for certifications. I do feel gratification when I win competitions like SYMF and American Protégé and when I finish tests like the CM or ABRSM, but my memory usually leaves these experiences by the wayside as I would much rather have fun, enjoy myself and make the most out of musical performances instead of stress about them. The events that especially stuck with me were my performances at Carnegie Hall in the winters of both 2016 and 2018. I felt honored to stand on a stage that hosted much more qualified and talented musicians. These performances were like formal invitations to join the deeply influential community that is music. I knew then that my flute would be a lifetime companion as we travel together to bask in the joy of serving others with the sound of music.
The flute awoke and breathed life into my previously dormant passion for music. It held my hand through the most beautiful moments in life as I connected with a wide variety of people, from peers to renowned instructors. I would also like to extend my gratitude to the Los Angeles Youth Philharmonic, my mother, my friends, and my teacher, Ms. Amy Tsai.
Featured Soloist : Sage Shurman, piano
A New Musical Perspective
Sage Shurman (Flintridge Preparatory School, 9th grade in 2019-20 school year)
I began playing piano at the age of three. My parents thought that three years old was too young to start, but I would not stop begging them to let me play. My older brother Mason who was 5 years old had started piano lessons, and I wanted to be just like him plucking away at the keys. But as I got older, music evolved into so much more than a desire to be like my older brother. Music became an escape for me; it took me out of my day-to-day life and into a fantasy world where I would lose myself for hours.
My first piano teacher, Edward Francis, brought out my love for music on the piano and developed my artistic skills. His immense passion for piano inspired me to practice everyday and give it my all. From a young age, he believed in me and my abilities and when I was six, he entered me in piano competitions. I started off with smaller ones like Bach, MTAC Contemporary, and Festimantic Festivals, but quite quickly moved to more prestigious competitions. At the age of eight, I won the Thousand Oaks Philharmonic Concerto Competition and performed all three movements of the Schroeder piano concerto with a full professional orchestra. At the age of ten and twelve, I won again and performed the first movement of Mozart’s thirteenth piano concerto and then the first movement of Poulenc’s piano concerto. Just two weeks before my performance of the Poulenc, Edward Francis, passed away. I was devastated. The man I saw weekly for more than six years, the man who was my piano playing inspiration and all-around mentor was gone. I struggled to practice the Poulenc despite the imminent concert because every time I sat at the piano bench I would cry. Supported by my family and other members of the community, I pulled myself together and made it my mission to perform the Poulenc in honor of him.
Yet since Mr. Francis passed, playing piano has not been the same for me. I realized that so much of my love for piano was actually attached to him and his passion for piano. I still have an intense love of music, but I now focus it into composing which I enjoy much more. Though I do have a new piano teacher, Roger Wright, and am still practicing and competing, I now classify myself mainly as a composer. I study composition at UCLA under Professor Ian Krouse and have written numerous pieces including a piano concerto of my own. One of my orchestral pieces, Games, won me the Luna Composition Lab fellowship in which I participated in this past year. Under the tutelage of Gity Razaz, my mentor from the program, I wrote a piano trio which will be performed by members of the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra.
I would like to thank the Performer Selection Committee for giving me this incredible opportunity to perform, and I would like to thank everyone who has helped me along my musical journey. I look forward to what is next.
Featured Soloist : Ashlyn Bendorf, piano
I Love Music
Ashlyn Bendorf (Homeschool, 11th in 2021-22 school year)
Throughout my entire life I have always loved music. Since the age of four, I have been playing piano, with my parents as my first teachers. Slowly, but surely, I have progressed in my musical journey, and my first major accomplishment was my solo recital in 2016 at age 10. Besides performing for larger audiences, I also love entering competitions where a small audience, or a few judges, can listen. Some examples of this would be level testing with Student Evaluations, RCM testing, Honors competition, Romantic Festival, and Piano Auditions. I learned to study music theory while participating in the testing, as well as prepare and memorize my pieces well. One of my favorite festivals to enter was the Southern California Junior Bach Festival. Hearing all of the wonderful Bach pieces played by so many talented kids was truly a joy. Also, multiple winners were chosen, taking some of the pressure off. I have placed in all of these competitions, and enjoyed participating in them.
In October of 2020, my family moved to Boise, Idaho. At first, I wasn’t sure if my musical journey would be drastically different, or unenjoyable because I wasn’t in the same physical location. However, when I switched to a new teacher, Dr. Del Parkinson, I soon realized that I could still enjoy music the same – if not even more. I absolutely love studying with Dr. Parkinson; he is so easy to understand, but pushes me to play and perform better than ever. Under him, I have entered the Treasure Valley Sonatina Festival in the Young Artist division and was a prizewinner.
My favorite things to do regarding music are playing with other musicians, or chamber music, entering festivals, and competing in competitions. Playing chamber music has long been one of my favorite things to do. Since the time I was little, playing duets with my parents has always been special; those times are some of my most cherished memories. Since then, I have played in multiple trios, and also played clarinet in my (then) local youth orchestra. I plan to continue playing chamber music in college, where I will be majoring in piano performance. I love performing. Any chance I get, I love to play for anyone who will enjoy the art of music. Overall, I really enjoy and love music. Whether listening to it, or playing it, music has always been a part of my life, and it always will be, no matter what.
Featured Soloist : Anna Bendorf, piano
Pianist Anna Bendorf received her Bachelor of Music in Piano Performance from the University of Oregon. She has performing experience as both an accompanist and solo performer. While studying music she won several piano competitions including the Oregon Music Teacher’s Association Piano Award for high school and college, the Kiwanis Club Piano Scholarship and the Mu Phi Epsilon Award for Piano in the Eugene area.
Anna is an active member of the Music Teachers National Association (MTNA) and National Federation of Music Clubs (NFMC).
As a collaborative pianist, Anna has played for state and regional winners for the MTNA Strings Competition, as well as the prestigious Petri Scholarship Competition. She has also worked with graduate and undergraduate students at the University of Oregon, Boise State University, and The Master’s University. Anna sang in the University of Oregon audition choir, the Eugene Symphony Chorus, and the Oregon Bach Festival Choir. She has performed in masterclasses under Horacio Gutierrez, Scott McBride Smith, and Victor Steinhardt. Her instructors have included Dr. Claire Wachter, Virginia H. Buhn, Dr. Dean Kramer, Victor Steinhardt, and Robert Ward.
Anna’s main musical love now is teaching piano privately—something that she has been doing for the past 25 years. Anna has also written reviews for children’s music albums for the toy journal, TD Monthly. She served as secretary on the board of the Santa Clarita Valley Youth Symphony Orchestra (SCVYO), as well as treasurer of the CAMPT Santa Clarita Branch of the MTNA, and is currently co-chair and founder of the Idaho Bach Festival. She and her husband, Adam, are duet partners and perform standard duet literature regularly.
Featured Soloist : Emily Kim, violin
Emily Kim (Flintridge Preparatory School, 10th in 2020-21 school year)
Although I did not start playing music until the fourth grade, I remember music being a large part of my life ever since I was a toddler. On sleepless nights, my parents would play Nocturne by Chopin and I would fall asleep soundly. In fourth grade, I asked my mom if I could play the violin, and immediately after going to the violin store and purchasing one, I couldn’t keep my hands off of it. I was so excited to play whenever I had the chance: in the morning, after school, before bed. My family and I discovered the Wesley Youth Orchestra. I had not received private lessons until a year later, but the Wesley Youth Orchestra taught me the importance of musicality and orchestral teamwork at a young age.
As I showed greater interest and passion for the violin, my parents enrolled me in private lessons. This was where I began to grow rapidly, starting off with Suzuki, but later on learning great concertos. I remember watching videos of famous violinists when I started, performing at beautiful concert halls with a grand orchestra. This was always a dream of mine and I was able to experience it for the first time when I was 13 at Carnegie Hall. Performing in front of the large audience on the polished stage was a long dream of mine that I was able to accomplish. It was my first time traveling somewhere new to perform. I immediately fell in love with the city of New York as well as all the musical friends I met there.
The COVID-19 outbreak has had a negative impact on many musicians, preventing them from having in-person lessons or performances. I have learned to maximize my musical skills and share them with the community during these hard times. In the Wesley Youth Orchestra, I am a volunteer teaching assistant that helps the young in the Strings classes as well as teach them. Teaching was something that was scary to me at first, but I learned to develop an admiration for it. Seeing how the kids I teach are so excited to learn music and play warms my heart and all the hard work is worth it.
I would not have been able to come this far without the support of my violin teacher Shelly Ren, my parents, and friends that encouraged me every step of the way. I also want to thank Dr. Margitza, the conductor of my school orchestra at Flintridge Preparatory. Thank you for countless opportunities and never-ending support!
Featured Soloist : Grace Hu, piano
The Pinnacle of Joy
Grace Hu (Dos Pueblos High School, 9th in 2020-21 school year)
Music has always been a vibrant passion in my life. From the day I stepped foot on this earth, I drove my parents crazy with my singing, dancing, twirling around the house, karaoke parties, enthusiastic energy, and laughter. I had always craved for a challenge, hungered for anything that could evoke powerful emotions, did every activity that involved music, and loved pursuing activities that showed results proportional to the work and effort put into it. When I was four years old, the perfect pursuit was introduced to me, and the one activity that could make me sit still, the piano. Learning how to navigate the keys was tedious work, however, my active brain thrived on the challenge of moving and dancing my fingers across the keyboard while producing sound. Music stimulated my brain and immersed me in an overwhelming dopamine rush when I achieved a good practice session or accomplished something in response to a stable work ethic. I fell in love with playing the piano and have continued to pursue it for the past decade.
Discipline, time, patience, passion, and a little bit of luck have gifted me some amazing opportunities, such as participating in the Los Angeles Youth Philharmonic Orchestra’s 2020 Summer Concert and being a soloist in LAYPO’s 2020 Virtual Christmas Benefit Concert. Other impactful experiences I’ve been lucky to participate in include the Music Academy of the West’s MERIT Program in 2018. My love and enjoyment for learning the piano flourished exponentially and reached the pinnacle through the program’s immersive two-week intensive mentorship. The MERIT program was also where I was introduced to the beautiful community/phenomena of music collaboration. Since then, I’ve loved playing with other music friends for fun and discovered a vivid enjoyment and a meaningful way to utilize my skill set by participating in collaborative music opportunities. These opportunities particularly have allowed me to express myself through my musical abilities and have encouraged me to become a better musician while also providing more meaning for my love and skills of the piano. Winning piano scholarships has also been a positive outcome and encouragement to further my piano studies. These include being a two-time recipient of the Santa Barbara Music Club Scholarship and a current finalist for the Performing Arts Scholarship Foundation.
As said by my parents, their initiative to sign me up for piano lessons was to enrich my life. And, studying the piano has. Learning the piano has not only taught me about music but also about life. The piano has taught me to be diligent, detail-oriented, patient, humble, grateful, and take chances. I hope that in the future, music will always surround me and be a part of my life as a source of joy. I aspire to pursue additional interests, possibly law or business, for a career goal since I enjoy interacting with people and enhancing my public speaking skills.
I feel very privileged that I can learn the piano, and I couldn’t have done it without my supportive parents and my dedicated piano teacher, Vera Kong. I would also like to express my gratitude to the Performer Selection Committee for this incredible opportunity. I can’t wait to perform and share my love for music with other fellow musicians!
Featured Soloist : Kielor Tung, violin
Kielor Tung (Santa Monica High School, 12th grade in 2020-21 school year)
When I was seven years old, I saw a violin player playing in the streets, and I immediately wanted to play one. It sounded so cool, hearing them play these cool harmonics and slides. I practically begged my parents for one, and after begging and begging, my parents finally got me an eighth-size violin. However, when I first put my bow on the string, it sounded so shrieky and scratchy, it didn’t sound anything like the violinist in the streets. My parents insisted, however, that I asked for this, and that quitting without giving it a chance was not the way to go.
My mom subsequently signed me up for Elemental Strings, (now known as Elemental Music), and I absolutely did not want to do it whatsoever, as I was a shy child, and did not want to interact with anyone. I reluctantly stayed, and to my amazement, I loved absolutely every moment of it: it taught me how to play with others, improve my playing, introduced me to other instruments in the world, and make friendships that I still have almost ten years later. In fact, I begged my mom to sign up the next year to do it again. Ever since then, orchestra playing has been a crucial part of my life. I am now c
I have taken exams with both CM and RCM, having received honors in both musical examination programs. I am a National Gold Medal Winner for the RCM Level 6 examination, which is an award that not only shows exceptional proficiency in playing, but has also completed all the theory corequisites. In 2020, I finished all 10 levels of the RCM Violin program, finishing Level 10 with honors, a rare accomplishment. In addition to my honors with RCM, I have received both Panel Honors and Masterclass, in addition to completing the Advanced Level Examination.
In addition to my musical examinations, I have received many awards both regionally and internationally. For many years, I have participated in the Southwestern Music Festival (SYMF), and have received numerous awards over the years. SYMF gave a glimpse of how competitive the music world can be, and pushed me to practice constantly, and improve my playing. I am also a two-time winner of the Elite International Music Competition, which selects talented students from all over the world to play in a recital in Carnegie Hall.
As part of the graduating class of 2021, I’ll be going to Swarthmore College in Pennsylvania, where I will be studying both music and engineering. While at Swarthmore, I plan to continue my music education by taking private lessons with professional musicians in Philadelphia, and participating in my college’s orchestra.
Featured Soloist : Maxine Park, soprano
More Than Just Sound
Maxine Park (Flintridge Preparatory School, 10th in 2020-21 school year)
On a scientific level, music is merely sonic waves we encounter on an everyday basis. But as a young child, and to this very day, I’ve had to live with certain music, a specific concoction of forces in the air, filling my body with such intense feeling. I never had a high emotional intelligence when I was younger (I don’t think any normal kid does), but music taught me to empathize. The notes sprawled across paper, written by composers centuries ago, strangely somehow conveyed more emotion to me than my own peers. The Carnival of the Animals made me joyful. Liszt made me panicked. Chopin, contemplative. Debussy, serene. I tried playing the piano, when I was about six or seven years old, on my own accord. And, like the musician I was, I got incredibly frustrated and perfectionistic, disappointed that the notes on the paper didn’t translate to my small, clumsy fingers. But the piano recitals were invigorating. The glare of the spotlight. The booming applause. I was ravished by the attention.
This is when I began singing. Singing was everything I had wanted and more. I was able to convey emotion the way I wanted to, to perform in front of hundreds of people. Years later, that rush of my first performance is exactly the same as every performance I’ve had ever since, no matter the size. Singing and performing became my life. I craved it, and longed for the spotlight once the night was over. I’ve never had the ability to stay still. I’ve always had to be working on something musically. So, as you can imagine, quarantine hit me quite hard. Not being able to sing was upsetting. Without singing, I had nothing. That spark of joy in my life, had been taken away from me. Most musicians will tell you that the global pandemic devastated their careers. But I think I’ve improved more this year, more than any other year beforehand. I won first in Mount Saint Mary’s University’s competition, and was a state finalist in the VOCE competition. Despite these titles, the way quarantine had improved my musicianship the most was through the opportunity for me to work more on my music theory, and improve my technique. Of course, this could have not been possible without my amazing voice teacher and my supportive parents. I’m so excited to be performing with the LAYP. It’s been truly an incredible experience, being directed by professionals, and working with youth similar to me, who share that undying passion for music.
Featured Soloist : Yoojin Lee, cello
Yoojin Lee (Homeschool, 12th grade in 2020-21 school year)
For as long as I could remember, I was always surrounded by music. I’d like to say I grew up in a pretty musical family, where my mom played the piano, and my brother, the violin. Though I was first introduced to the cello at the age of 6, I believe my path as a musician started in middle school where I was reintroduced to my old teacher. His lessons were always strict, but soon enough I realized that under him, I’ve come to love and respect music.
The music academy I was at always gave us an opportunity to enter the Certificate of Merit Convention (CM), where we could put our music and theory skills to the test. Theory was never easy to learn and despite passing the performance test, I doubted my musical skills as I couldn’t pass the theory test. As the levels became harder, I was less motivated but continued to study until last year, where I was able to overcome Level 10 of the program.
In the midst of all the self-doubt and fear, I’ve learned to take advantage of myself as a musician and have come far enough to be accepted into NYO2, a national youth orchestra program. Because of the pandemic, I was sadly unable to attend the full program which was to be held at Carnegie Hall, but I’m very grateful to have been a part of a short but unique experience.
As of now, I may not have a specific plan set in mind, but I am very excited to see where my path as a musician will take me. I’m stoked to say that I will be moving to Boston to attend a music college and am incredibly blessed to have this chance. I want to take this time to find an even bigger passion, as the happiest version of myself.
One essay wouldn’t be enough to explain the experience I have with music, but I want to address that I wouldn’t have been able to come this far without my mom’s overwhelming patience and my brother’s support. I look forward to furthering my path as a musician, and hope it only gets better from here on out.
Featured Soloist : Suzy Belik, French horn
Suzy Belik (Simi Valley High School, 11th grade in 2020-21 school year)
I have always been a musical person, and for that, I have my parents to thank. When I was little, my mother played the oboe in our local community orchestra. I remember peering into their rehearsal room on my father’s shoulders and getting lost in the stories the sounds created in my head: classical music made me imagine other worlds, life as a bird, a planet, or a dinosaur. My father was never classically trained in music himself, but I inherited his talent for excellent mimicry. He could listen to a song a few times and then replicate it perfectly on his electric guitar without sheet music or tablatures.
My first instrument was actually the violin. In third grade, my elementary school had an event where we got to try out all sorts of orchestral instruments. A rugged, old violin immediately captured my heart, and I spent most of the event wandering the auditorium seeing what sounds I could make with the worn strings and bow. I went on to perform in my 4th grade class play, playing violin along with the music tracks by ear, and joined my first youth string orchestra. My musical foundation was built by my incredible violin teacher, Janitta Keck. I still study with her on viola today.
In sixth grade, I joined my middle school’s Beginning Band by chance. Our school district happened to structure sixth grade classes in a way that only allowed students to take beginner level music classes, and I didn’t want to spend a year relearning the basics of violin. My director asked me what band instrument I wanted to play, and I had no idea- all I knew was that I wanted to try a brass instrument. He suggested the horn, and unknown to both of us at the time, that choice would completely change my life.
In seventh grade, I joined my first full orchestra as a horn player: the CSUN Youth Symphony Orchestra. It was a very challenging experience for me. At the time, I only had a private teacher for strings. I was also the only horn player in the entire orchestra, so suddenly, with only a year of horn experience, I was thrown into playing first parts on standard repertoire with nobody to cover any mistakes I made. I had to adapt quickly, and my technical skill increased astronomically as I rushed to keep up with the older members of the orchestra. I had an amazing time and some of the best orchestral experiences of my life with CSUN. I feel that I owe many of my musical abilities to my Youth Symphony director, Laura Asenas, who trusted me to play difficult and beautiful music and supported me with continuous opportunities to improve.
In high school, I finally began studying horn privately with amazing teachers. I studied briefly with Jennifer Bliman and now study with Phyllis Rautenberg. I moved up to the CSUN Youth Philharmonic Orchestra, and began playing in more groups. I have attended summer programs, including brass ensembles at the Colburn School and a horn seminar from the Eastman School of Music. I became a student leader in my school’s music program, serving as both Wind Ensemble Class President and High Brass Marching Band Captain. I’ve earned positions in my county, area, and state Honor Bands and have played in community groups outside of school.
One group stood out among the rest during the struggles of the COVID-19 pandemic: the Los Angeles Youth Philharmonic Orchestra. At a time when musical opportunities were disappearing, the LAYPO leadership team worked hard to provide us with opportunities to play in virtual concerts. I was selected to perform my first ever solo concerto with any orchestra in December 2020 for our LAYPO Virtual Christmas Benefit Concert.
Because of my experiences with LAYPO during the pandemic, I have learned an important lesson: even deeply challenging circumstances cannot stop passion for music from flourishing. Music is a beautiful thing that can bring people together in the darkest times. I hope to continue performing throughout my life so that I can spread the joy and imagination that is sparked by this art.
I am planning to major in music performance and possibly double-major with another arts degree.
I would like to thank my family for helping me begin and grow as a musician. I would like to thank my viola teacher, Janitta Keck, for helping me improve for so many years. I would like to thank my horn teacher, Phyllis Rautenberg, for being an excellent teacher and also an amazing mentor. I would like to thank my middle school band director, Mitch Schuster, for greatly influencing my passion for music and leading me to where I am today. I would like to thank my CSUN directors, Laura Asenas and John Roscigno, for challenging me with great music and helping to guide my future plans. Finally, I would like to thank the LAYPO conductors for working hard to help so many students enjoy music during these tough times, and providing us with fantastic opportunities to perform despite the challenges.
Featured Soloist : Landon Hellman, piano
Never Did I Think
Landon Hellman (Dos Puelos High School, 11th grade in 2021-22 school year)
Never did I think I would be playing the piano with a full orchestra or a conductor. Never did I think I would be playing the piano at Walt Disney Concert Hall. And, never did I think I would be an orchestral soloist playing a Haydn piano concerto in front of an audience. However, all of these incredible things did happen and I am very grateful to the Los Angeles Youth Philharmonic Orchestra Performer Selection Committee for giving me these opportunities and experiences that I never could have imagined on my own.
My very first musical experience began with Kindermusik classes when I was three to five years old. Once a week I sang, danced, and played small musical instruments with a group of kids and an instructor. It was a lot of fun, unknowingly learning about rhythm and melodies as we moved around a room performing for each other and our parents. When I was six years old, I started private piano lessons with Emily Gargus, my wonderful teacher who taught me how to read music and properly play notes on the piano. She gently encouraged my interest and growth in a Montessori like way, as she allowed me to go at my own pace for six years. At some point though, I lost interest in my weekly lessons and biyearly recitals, and I decided to try something new musically. I was twelve years old when I joined a pop rock band playing the keyboard, composing some music and eventually singing too. It was, and still is a fun and exciting experience collaborating, practicing, and performing with my friends at different events and venues. Amidst this change, my parents also encouraged me to maintain my individual and personal development with piano, and thus I began private jazz lessons with Kieron Barry. Also, an inspiring teacher, he shared a new style of music and taught me a lot about improvisation, music theory, and chord progression. However, after two years of learning jazz piano and playing with my middle school’s jazz band, I realized classical music was a big part of me and that I truly missed having it in my life. As a result, I was fortunate to meet my current piano teacher, Vera Kong.
Through Ms. Kong, I have gained a whole new musical perspective and appreciation for formal music instruction, understanding more about technique, timing, and capturing emotion with my playing. With each new piece I learn, my abilities are challenged and I feel impassioned to play even better. Moreover, I’ve been introduced to a world of piano opportunities I never knew existed. I’ve participated in the Southern California Junior Bach Festival Final competitions, placing second in my category one year. I’ve received a number of awards and scholarships from the Santa Barbara Music Club and the Performing Arts Scholarship Foundation. I’ve been able to attend master classes and receive invaluable instruction and feedback from experienced professionals, helping me to develop my piano skills and artistry. And lastly, but certainly not least, I’ve been able to play with orchestras and conductors through the Los Angeles Youth Philharmonic Orchestra (2019 and 2021), something seldom experienced by a piano student and a privilege I will always cherish.
Never did I think piano would be such a big part of my life. But, after all of the many activities and experiences I had growing up, I realize that playing this instrument well and performing in front of others whether on my own or with my pop band or with an orchestra is something truly special and empowering. The piano gives me freedom of self expression, opportunities to collaborate and share a mutual passion with other musicians, and the gift to move an audience. While I plan to major in a field of engineering or science in college, I know playing the piano will always be an essential part of my life.
Featured Soloist : Amber Dahlberg, organ
A Passion for Music
Hailing from San Diego, California, Amber Dahlberg is a Masters of Music candidate at Brigham Young University where she studies organ performance with Dr. Don Cook and Dr. Neil Harmon. She will be graduating with an emphasis in organ performance in the spring of 2022. Amber also completed her undergraduate work in organ at BYU in 2020. In addition to playing the organ and piano, Amber is an associate carillonneur at BYU. She plays the Centennial Bell Tower for noon recitals and graduations.
Beginning piano lessons in first grade, Amber passed the MTAC’s Certificate of Merit Advanced level with honors in her senior year of high school. She attributes much of her success to her family, as well as to her piano teacher of twelve years, Phyllis Bouck. Mrs. Bouck also introduced her to the organ, which Amber began studying and performing in church at the age of 10. After attending BYU’s Summer Music Festival her junior year of high school, she knew she wanted to major in organ.
Amber won first place in the Regional Competition for Young Organists for the west region of the American Guild of Organists in 2019. Since the competition, she has had many exciting solo performance opportunities at notable venues such as the Salt Lake City Tabernacle, First United Methodist Church of San Diego, St. Mark’s Cathedral in Salt Lake City, The Cathedral of the Madeleine in Salt Lake City, and the 2019 AGO Regional Convention in Irvine.
As part of her graduate assistantship, Amber teaches beginning group organ classes, private organ lessons, and undergraduate theory core classes at BYU. Upon graduation, she plans to move back to San Diego and open a private studio of her own, in addition to having a professional career in church music.
Featured Soloist: Mollie Chou, soprano
Mollie Chou (Claremont High School, 9th in 2021-22 school year)
I vividly remember standing on my family’s brown coffee table with a plastic microphone singing my heart out. At six years old, I started putting on shows for my parents. I would assign my younger sisters different singing and dancing parts while I would sing the solo. My sisters and I all shared a love for singing from a young age. It was simply a hobby that we loved doing together. Singing brought me pure joy then and it still does today.
I realized how much I loved singing when I was in first grade. I joined the kids choir at church and loved performing in front of the whole congregation. Each week I listened to the songs we were supposed to learn on repeat over and over again in the car. The songs were catchy and so fun to sing. As I started to get older, I joined my school choir and continued on with my church choir. I also started doing musical theater productions such as Beauty and the Beast Jr., Seussical the Musical Jr., and many more. In about fourth grade, I started taking private voice lessons. That is when singing became much more serious for me. I began singing classical pieces and not just musical theater and contemporary pieces. My amazing voice teacher, who is still my teacher to this day, taught (and is still teaching) me correct singing technique. She is such an inspiration to me. Without her I wouldn’t be where I am today. In seventh grade I joined the Los Angeles Children’s Choir, and then in eighth grade the National Children’s Choir. Being a part of these choirs taught me so much about singing technique, music theory, and how to sing with others. All of these experiences have helped me grow into the singer I am today.
I currently participate in Certificate of Merit. The program is well rounded. It not only tests my performance abilities, but also my technique, knowledge of music theory, and sight singing as well. I am considering studying music in college and I am excited for what the future holds.
Singing is such a big part of my life and I can’t imagine what life would be like without it. I love using my voice to bring hope and inspire others. I am so honored to have had the opportunity to sing a solo with the Los Angeles Youth Philharmonic Orchestra. It was a truly unforgettable experience that I will remember forever. I am so thankful for the support of my teachers, friends, and family.
Featured Soloist: Helaine Zhao, piano
A Lifetime with Music
Helaine Zhao (Pacific Academy, 11th in 2022-23 school year)
From a young age, I was surrounded by Classical music, whether it was coming from the CD player in my house or from my mother or sister. As my mother is a piano teacher, I was quickly exposed to the piano and I was slamming my fingers onto the piano keys as a baby. When I turned 4, I began taking formal piano and violin lessons, but after a few years of learning both instruments, I quickly realized where my greatest passion lies. I stopped playing the violin and decided to focus on the piano, continuing my journey with the keyboard instrument.
With the help and support of many people, I quickly grew as a pianist and a musician. After winning the SYMF Young Pianist Concerto Competition, I was able to make my orchestral debut at the age of 10. At the age of 11, I played in Carnegie Hall in New York after winning 1st in the American Protégé International Competition. Although there have been many obstacles and periods of slow growth in my journey as a musician, I continued to work hard and never stopped trying to improve myself and my music. More recently, I was able to perform with an orchestra again after winning the OCSA All Instruments Concerto Competition. I continue to share my music through concerts and competitions, and some of my recent achievements include winning 1st at the US New Star International Competition, the North International Piano Competition, OC Steinway Rising Star Piano Competition, and 3rd at the Arther Fraser International Piano Competition.
Playing the piano and music overall has brought me an unimaginable amount of joy, love, beauty, courage, confidence, and more, and I am certain that there is still much more to come in my journey as a pianist. I hope to continue improving as a musician and sharing my love for music with others, even after high school. In college, I hope to join a dual degree program, as I want to explore other fields while continuing my journey in piano.
I have come a long way and I have achieved a lot with music, but I would definitely not be where I am now without the help of several people. First, I want to thank all of my past teachers and mentors who have helped and guided me in my growth as a musician and as a person. I also want to thank my current teacher, Mr. Rufus Choi, who has taught me so much as a musician, follower of Christ, and as a person. However, above all, I want to thank my parents, who have continued to support me without bounds. I would not be the musician or person I am now without my parents and my family, and I am beyond grateful for everything they have done for me to support my musical journey.
In the past 16 years of my life, music has always been with me as a hobby, a passion, a friend, and as an irreplaceable part of my life. We have come a long way, but this is just the beginning, because I know that I will be spending a lifetime with music.
Featured Soloist: Isabel Kim, violin
A Journey of a Lifetime
Isabel Kim (The Webb Schools, 11th in 2022-23 school year)
My journey with the violin started when I was just five years old. My first lessons came from dedicated student teachers at Point Loma Nazareth University who volunteered weekly classes for younger children. As a child who loved to listen to music and often dance to it, I took a liking to the instrument. After repetition of “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” and “Old McDonald Had A Farm”, I told my parents I wanted to continue playing. After some research, they decided to start me on the Suzuki Program and brought me to a small studio in the heart of downtown San Diego. This is where I met my teacher, Mrs. Susanna Han of the Suzuki Heritage Center, who would help me find a passion for the violin for nearly 11 years.
Starting to learn violin as a six-year-old was admittedly hard. Although there were many obstacles in my growth, I graduated each Suzuki level within the span of six to twelve months. I took on the role of a soloist, playing in organized concerts and attending Suzuki camps across the U.S. By the time I was ten, I had completed all the Suzuki books and was pursuing many different kinds of pieces to expand my repertoire. In 2018, I graduated from the entire program. Nevertheless, I continued my lessons with Mrs. Susanna, knowing that there were so many more opportunities awaiting me as a violinist. Violin had suddenly become more than just an instrument to me. It was my outlet, an extension of my voice when words failed me. I took on a new venture and joined the Hausmann Chamber Music Program. I then started a chamber quartet with my friend called the West Coast Quartet. Being a part of these groups allowed me to experience what it was like to work with other passionate musicians. Conversely, I was now skilled enough to choose my own solo pieces to play, and I fell in love with romantic composers like Tchaikovsky and Wieniawski. However, in addition to being an advanced violinist, I was also a dedicated water polo athlete. I would often find myself at a crossroads between choosing sports or music. Both were equally important to me, but they had overlapping schedules and often required my full commitment. But what I knew was that, beyond these conflicts, music touched me in ways that anything or anyone else could not. It was my friend, my form of expression, and most importantly, my passion.
In 2016, I was chosen as a soloist for a music camp I would be attending that summer in Utah, and gave a performance during their annual concert. In 2018, I attended the MTAC concerto competition and received second place. I re-entered the following year and received honorable mention. After graduating from the Suzuki Program, I went on to pursue my first official orchestral experience with the San Diego Youth Symphony and secured a first violin assistant principal position. Once I left San Diego for The Webb Schools, I participated in their high school Honor Orchestra as first violin assistant principal and was also selected as a violinist for the Regional Honor Orchestra of the California Association of Independent Schools.
As I move forward in life, I hope to continue my musical journey, whether it be through amazing orchestral opportunities like LAYPO or soloist performances in concerts. In college, although I am most interested in pursuing a major in the science field, I have been considering the option of double majoring to study music. But I know that no matter the decisions I make, the violin will forever be an indispensable part of me.
I would like to extend my gratitude to my parents for the immense effort and support they have put into my musical education. They are the reason I was able to start and continue my incredible journey with the violin. I would also like to thank LAYPO, for this amazing opportunity to play not just with their orchestra, but also with their honor trio. Finally, my teacher, Mrs. Susanna Han, has never ceased to believe in me and always pushed me to soar to great heights as a violinist. I would not be where I am today without her 11 years of guidance and teaching. Thank you!
Featured Soloist: Vivian Lee, flute
Vivian Lee (Troy High School, 12th in 2022-23 school year)
A week before my sixth birthday, I came home from kindergarten to find a huge present in the middle of the living room. It was covered in blue wrapping paper and had the words “Happy Birthday, Vivian” written with a thick black Sharpie. My grandpa had pooled his savings to buy me, a 5-year-old with absolutely no musical experience, a black Yamaha upright piano.
Shortly after, I started weekly piano lessons at a music academy. Then a few years later, I started my second instrument: the flute. I loved starting new pieces and challenging myself to learn more techniques and improve my musical abilities. I played at recitals and soon after started to compete in regional music festivals. I prepared for the MTAC Certificate of Merit exams, and as of last year, I have completed all 10 levels and was eligible as a Panel finalist for both instruments.
I used to think music was an individual activity, but joining my church youth orchestra in sixth grade opened up a new realm. For years, I had played solo piano repertoire or flute pieces with a piano accompaniment, so the mix of multiple different sounds and tones that make up a full orchestra guided me to appreciate music in a different way. The collaborative environment of orchestras made me seek out more opportunities to play. I joined the Southern California School Band and Orchestra Association (SCSBOA) Orchestra in 2018 and 2019 and played in my junior high school’s symphony orchestra.
Unfortunately, due to a busy academic schedule in high school, I was unable to play with an orchestra and mainly focused on individual pieces. I dedicated myself to building my own musical voice and learning how to expressively communicate my emotions through both the flute and the piano. Especially during the pandemic, I leaned on music as a creative outlet and a place to vent the stress that was building up from constant isolation. Although I entered — and placed — in several regional and state competitions, I still yearned for the collaborative energy that I felt when playing as a member of an orchestra, which is why I truly appreciate the opportunity LAYPO has given me.
At home, whenever I practiced or performed at a recital, my grandparents always showered me with praise and told me how much they loved hearing me play. This made me realize that I could use my musical skills to benefit others and not just myself. I joined a couple music-focused organizations that gave me the opportunity to utilize my skills for people in my community.
With these groups, I set up a keyboard in front of local grocery stores and collected food, toys, and monetary donations to give to charities during the holidays while playing festive songs. I also visited a senior nursing home and performed popular songs, such as “Yesterday” by the Beatles and “Evermore” from Disney’s Beauty and the Beast, at the end of every month. Interacting with people outside of the musical community and seeing how much people enjoyed listening to us play showed me how universal music was and gave me a newfound appreciation for it.
My personal experience with music has allowed me to grow as a more emotional, creative, and expressive individual. Although I will not be pursuing a professional future in music, it will always be my means of expression.
Playing a solo concerto with this group is an incredible opportunity, and I am so grateful for the people who have supported me. Thank you to my piano instructor Ahram Shin and flute instructor Julie Oh who taught me how to play my instruments and how to utilize it for my creative expression. Thank you to my mom who supported my musical endeavors and never allowed me to give up. And most importantly, thank you to my grandpa who gave me the most valuable gift I have ever received: music.
Featured Soloist: Chloe Frisco, cello
A Grateful Cellist
Chloe Frisco (Palos Verdes Intermediate School, 8th in 2022-23 school year)
Since way before I was born, my mother always had a passion and interest for music, even though she was not musical herself. Her favorite instrument was the cello, loving the elegance and the rich, powerful sound that it produces, which I can agree with. My brother, being the first born, was naturally introduced into the world of music, but did not share my mother’s passion for cello and began learning piano and violin. A few years later, I was introduced into the world, filled with love and opportunities. Since music was always heard at home, I was quickly drawn to the lovely instrument called “cello”, which made my mother very happy.
I started my cello journey at the age of 8 with amazing guidance from my teachers and parents. Sadly, my first two teachers are no longer with us, but I will always remember their kindness, patience, and words of inspiration. Cello remains enjoyable to me to this day because I was taught early on to play with individuality and my own style, even with something as simple as playing a bow stroke. I also feel blessed and fortunate to have had the opportunity to work with the great cellist Lynn Harrell. He showed me how the cello was like a natural extension of my own body and helped me to always produce the best and most beautiful sound possible.
One of my proudest moments as a young cellist was performing for the first time in front of an audience at the Southwestern Youth Music Festival (SYMF). I was nervous about participating in the event, but somehow played with confidence and was awarded a First Prize trophy. Since then, I have received top honors and awards in several competitions, including the CalASTA Regional and State Solo Competitions, Great Composers International Music Competitions, Los Angeles Violoncello Society Scholarship Auditions, Canadian International Music Competition, CAPMT Concerto Competition, National League of Performing Arts International Young Artists Competition, Grand Metropolitan International Music Competition, American Protégé International Music Competitions, Enkor International Music Competition, and the Chicago International Music Competition and Festival. As a result of some of my achievements, I recently performed a solo at Carnegie Hall, and I am grateful and humbled to be part of the LAYPO Festival Honor Trio performing in Disney Hall.
I am not sure yet about my future career, but I plan to continue growing as a cellist regardless of whatever direction I may go. Music is an important part of my life and I cherish the time and opportunities afforded to me to learn as much as I can.
To my parents, I want to always thank you for your role as my loving guardians, bringing me to this world with such unconditional devotion and support for everything. I cannot express how much gratitude I have for you two. It will forever mean so much to me. I also thank my older brother, Honor, for helping pave the way for me on my musical journey and for being a fan.
Featured Soloist: Honor Frisco, violin
A Musical Odyssey
Honor Frisco (Palos Verdes Peninsula High School, 11th in 2021-22 school year)
At an early age, I was thrown into the world of music by my parents. Despite both of them having no musical background, they enjoyed the company of music filling the house. Day and night, they would play records ranging from classical to pop. The two of them eventually bought a grand piano in hopes of having a child who would be able to breathe life into it. At the age of five, I began my musical journey with the piano and later on, I ended up falling in love with the violin along the way.
What drew me to the violin was the sheer versatility of the instrument. It was a wooden box, but it had capabilities paralleling the human voice. In addition to its voice-like qualities, the violin made it convenient to share my love for music with a group of people in an orchestra. Orchestra significantly propelled my passion for music by stimulating my motivation to practice. That newfound joy made me want to improve upon my skills like never before. Initially, I would always practice out of obligation for my parents. I loved music, but I despised practicing. Once I started to practice for my own growth, however, I saw a rapid growth in my musicality and ability.
Over the years, I have gained recognition for my musicianship through awards, but what impacted me most was being invited to From the Top. There, I met several other musicians and drew inspiration from them, along with the people who were leading the program. My experience there opened my eyes to the essentiality of the arts. I was shown that music has the potential to be a beacon of unity. As for my performing career, I felt like I had reached a new peak when I was invited to perform at Carnegie Hall. The venue was unbelievable, and it was a privilege to be able to perform there.
Regarding my future, I am not too sure what I want to pursue as a career path. Regardless, I know that I will continue to be involved with the arts. It is a part of me that I cannot seem to let go of. The connection I have to music will not leave me once I move on to college. I have no doubt in my mind that I will be making music at every stage of my life.
It must be noted that without the support of my parents, I would not be where I am today. They have continually watered the seed of my musical talent with tremendous sacrifice and effort. I credit all of my musical growth to them because none of it would be possible without them. My parents and teachers are the cogs behind my musical machinery. I would also like to dearly thank my younger sister for always cheering me on from the sidelines. Her support always keeps me driven to work toward my full potential. To anyone that has thrown support my way, thank you for believing in me.
Featured Soloist: Emma Tio, piano
Beginning, Not Ending
Emma Tio (Los Angeles County High School of the Arts, 12th in 2022-23 school year)
I am a senior at Los Angeles High School of the Arts in the 2022-2023 school year and am currently studying under Nobuyo Nishizaka in Pasadena, CA. My musical journey started like any other Asian family, at the age of 6 with the influence of my parents. Practicing always seemed tedious and boring to me, especially when my attention span lasted only 5 minutes. However, after my first major accomplishment of performing at Carnegie Hall in middle school, I felt like what I was doing had some meaning. It was then, that I had a clearer path in mind. Following which, some of my achievements in solo piano include: Southern California Junior Bach Complete Work Audition, The Claudette Sorel Piano Competition ‘Best Bach Award’, Southwest Youth Music Festival, International New Star Piano Competition, and International Music Competition Rome “Grand Prize Virtuoso”.
Feeling slightly ambitious, I started taking up teaching at nonprofit organizations like Art Hour, and later Saturday Conservatory Music. After passing the Certificate of Merit, Panel, I began tutoring the students my teacher didn’t have time to teach theory to. Furthermore, believing that exposing myself to different activities of music would improve my solo performance, I tried accompanying students at my school and friends who were preparing for college. However, out of all the activities I’ve done, chamber music has been so far the most enjoyable. I have been attending Junior Chamber Music for 4 years now, and have been named Debut Artist along with my group, and while working together with other instruments is new and exciting, the things I can learn from collaborating with people my age is what truly thrills me.
During my time at LACHSA, I’m incredibly grateful for all the opportunities to do 4 hands, 6 hands, 2 piano works, and ensembles and expose myself to many more styles and works. Plus, a big thanks to all my friends in the piano department who can relate to my struggles. I’ve been able to learn so much, hearing different perspectives and thoughts that I’d never think of myself, and grow under my teachers, Ms. Ghazarian and Ms. Larson.
After graduating high school, I hope to pursue a major in piano performance to further my studies. Lastly, I’d like to thank my parents for enduring the many nights of loud practice and all the time they’ve put into me, as well as my incredibly talented teacher and everyone who has supported me until now.