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NYO-USA Reflections: A Magic Carpet

The 2014 National Youth Orchestra of the United States of America (NYO-USA) was a magic ride for violinist Kevie Yu, and she still carries the experience with her at home in Oklahoma. Applications for the 2015 NYO-USA are due on November 5, 2014. More blogs from 2014 musicians are available here.

Kevie Yu, Violin:

It has been a little over two months since the conclusion of the epic adventure that was NYO-USA. Now solidly settled into my senior year in Oklahoma, I often feel like the summer was nothing more than a distant dream.

Looking back, it’s surprising how quickly we adapted to the NYO life. The long bus rides, the frequent flights—everything seemed so natural by the end of the tour. Now, my main form of ground transportation is no longer a chartered bus, and there isn’t a smartphone app to inform me of my adventures for the day. I can no longer turn to anyone around me and share a brilliantly timed West Side Story joke, nor do I get frustrated by the impossibility of tying a square knot on my neckerchief. All the little pieces that made up NYO-USA are no longer present, but the bigger picture stayed with me.

NYO Kevie Yu Gil ShahamKevie Yu (center) waits in line for Gil Shaham’s autograph after NYO-USA finished its final concert with Shaham during the 2014 tour.   NYO Kevie Yu speakerKevie Yu introduces NYO-USA during its first concert of 2014 in the Performing Arts Center at Purchase College, SUNY.

Somehow, we found our “Somewhere.” For me, unlike for Maria in West Side Story, this place wasn’t just hoped for. It was created through the assembly of an orchestra and staff of the most talented, well-rounded, and sincere people I have ever encountered. Our “Somewhere” was built on a strong foundation of mutual respect. Musical ability was already a given, so we came to be known for something other than playing our instruments well. Topped with fun and excitement—silly grins when meeting Gil Shaham and star-struck smiles when seeing Yo-Yo Ma appear backstage, disappointed groans at yet another meal in the dining hall, and incredulous laughter at our orchestra manager’s killer dance moves—the home we found with each other was nothing less than warm and welcoming.

It was during each concert, sitting in the sea of black blazers and red pants and finding it hard to believe I was actually a part of the picture after all those days of looking at the NYO-USA posters, that I truly understood what Aristotle meant when he said “the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.” Together, we were more, and it was hard to walk away from that feeling unchanged. In a way, I felt like Jasmine in Aladdin, whisked off to a world she never knew existed at a height she never dreamed of reaching. (I suppose that would make Carnegie Hall Aladdin and the Weill Music Institute the magic carpet.)

NYO Kevie Yu airplaneThe orchestra pauses for a photo on the tarmac in Boone, NC. NYO-USA’s 120 musicians lived,
traveled, rehearsed, and performed together for four and a half weeks in 2014.

The transition back to reality was fast, but I hold onto the new horizons I explored this summer. Every time I start to lose sight of my dreams in my mundane daily life, every time they start to feel too big for my small body, every time slacking off starts to seem oh-so-desirable, I remember that “Somewhere” out there, at least 119 other musicians are also still dreaming, still working, still practicing. As a member posted on the NYO-USA Facebook page, “Nothing motivates me to practice quite like listening to NYO recordings and thinking ‘Man, everybody else sounds so good.’”

While it’s easy to forget about the bigger world out there while in a small place, my memories from NYO-USA remind me that it still exists, and that I am capable of being more, of giving back more. That’s enough to keep me going for now.

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