NYO-USA Musician Blogs: Helen Wu
The musicians of the National Youth Orchestra of the United States of America's 2015 season will arrive at Purchase College, SUNY, in just a few days. This year, over one-third of the orchestra is made up of members who have participated in either or both of NYO-USA's first two seasons. As one such alumna, violinist Helen Wu reflects on the importance of youth orchestras to her development and looks forward to the orchestra's upcoming tour of China.
“I can’t wait. I can’t wait. I can’t wait!”
That’s all I’ve been hearing from my fellow musicians as we count down the days to NYO-USA. I’m one of 40 returning members in the 2015 orchestra, and I’m in awe at that number but not at all surprised. What is it about NYO-USA that makes us all so eager to return for a second and, for some, a third year? I’m sure that every person in the orchestra would give his or her own unique answer, but I can certainly reflect on mine.
During high school, I’ve had the amazing opportunity to go on tour all over the world—to the beautiful beaches of Croatia, the awe-inspiring architecture of Prague, the great city of London, and so much more—with my local youth and school orchestras. I joined my first orchestra when I was 10, and I have never looked back. I’ve explored countless cultures, met inspiring people (musicians and non-musicians alike), and bonded over the music we made. Last summer, I participated in NYO-USA’s coast-to-coast US tour, discovering and revisiting wonders of my home country. Participating in NYO-USA 2014 helped me push myself to my limits, form unbreakable bonds with my fellow musicians, and ignite a new passion for music. At every venue, I made music with the best and the brightest. I gaped in wonder out into the halls and the places I had never visited before, enlightened by the novelty and the spirit of my companions.
Helen Wu speaks to the audience at the Grand Teton Music Festival in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. (Photography: Chris Lee)
I believe the youth of NYO-USA has something to do with the magic that the orchestra creates—we each have a unique understanding of the world as we are still learning and developing. We’re all open books, and we feel free to express whatever we wish to express. We laugh together at our unhealthily healthy obsession with kale and our collective penchant for NYO puns, we tear up together at beautiful moments we produce in music, and because of our shared love for music, we bond so quickly at a deep level. It’s difficult for me to explain how hard it was to leave NYO-USA at the end of the 2014 program and how strange it was to wake up the next day without my fellow musicians—with whom I had created and shared so many memories—down the hall from me.
Returning to NYO-USA this year is particularly special to me because, though I have visited China several times before, this tour marks the first time I will perform in the country where my parents and ancestors were born and raised. NYO-USA will allow me to explore and embrace a culture so important to me yet somewhat distant in my highly Americanized life, and it will enable me to share my love of music with audiences in China. It will also serve as the transition between my time as a high school student and the new chapter of my life as a college student. I look forward to participating again in the outstanding musicianship, camaraderie, and learning experiences that have become trademarks of NYO-USA. I feel so fortunate to have spent my summer with NYO-USA in 2014, and I can’t wait to be back!