Violinist Kevie Yu was born in Taiwan and now lives in Edmond, Oklahoma. She writes about the experience of coming together as an orchestra in the first few days of NYO-USA.
I stepped onto the Purchase College, SUNY, campus carrying not only my luggage but also high expectations for this journey. Like everyone else (or so I assume), I had been anticipating the most magical month of my life since the fateful day of my acceptance: February 7. Months before, I had stared hard at my laptop, my incredulous brain refusing to comprehend what the word congratulations implied. The excitement stayed alive in following months, always bubbling just beneath the surface. The key I received upon arrival unlocked not only the fancy NYO-USA swag in my room, but also the whirlwind of activities I soon plunged into. From the welcome dinner to the scavenger hunt to the orientation, the staff kept us busy with the painstakingly planned schedule (which, like everything else here, is available on a smartphone app for the orchestra).
Raised in Taiwan and now living in Oklahoma, my world has been relatively small. I knew NYO-USA, an orchestra composed of some of the nation’s finest young musicians, would open my eyes to a world of talent much bigger than what I was used to. The level of discipline and dedication to music I encountered was higher than I knew was possible for people just like me. However, I was surprised at how easy, how natural it was to strike up a conversation with anyone here, especially after learning how accomplished everyone was. With a standard inquiry of another’s name and hometown (and, if you’re feeling adventurous, future plans), a friendship is formed almost instantly. For me, it was inspiring to meet people for whom schools like The Juilliard School and Curtis Institute of Music were not naïve dreams but instead pending realities. What was even more incredible, however, was discovering the humility, passion, and conscientiousness beneath the overwhelming amount of talent. Although I met the musicians, I became friends with the people. After several conversations, it was obvious that my new colleagues and I shared not only our love for music but also our nervous anticipation for the first rehearsal. It was fun to get to know each other through games and meals, but ultimately, we came to make music.
NYO-USA rehearses with Orchestra Director James Ross
When it was finally time for our first full rehearsal, I was ready to hear the “first sound of NYO-USA.” As the maestro’s baton dropped, the beautiful trumpet solo echoed throughout the concert hall, signaling the start of Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition. I looked around and found grins mirroring my own across the stage. To me, that moment was when this adventure truly started. From there, we explored the following movements and dived into Bernstein’s Symphonic Dances from West Side Story. Sitting in the middle of the violin section, I was amazed as I observed the equal contribution to the rich sound of the orchestra from both the front and the back of the section. It was like nothing I had ever experienced before. No, it was not a perfect first rehearsal. We played wrong notes and missed entries and tripped over each other in our eager rush to play the Baga-Yaga movement (much to the faculty’s amusement). Although the flaws of the first reading may have been disappointing to some, it only reminded me of how real this experience is. As Dr. Seuss so wisely penned, “It’s not about what it is; it’s about what it can be.” That first rehearsal was a promise of our potential, of what NYO-USA can be. After a week of hard work with Maestro Ross and a first rehearsal with Maestro Robertson, I now see that the promise has been fulfilled.
Not everything was how I expected it would be at NYO-USA, but I learned that not meeting the expectations is not always a bad thing. Sometimes, it is just different, and sometimes, that’s even better.
Learn more about the National Youth Orchestra of the United States of America.