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Farewell to NYO-USA, Hello to the World!

Trumpet player Lincoln Valdez is one of one a handful of musicians who have participated in the National Youth Orchestra of the United States of America each of the orchestra’s first three years. Ever since Lincoln received his acceptance to the 2013 orchestra, NYO-USA has played a special role in his family’s life as well. His mother, Eun Y. Kim, writes about what NYO-USA means to her and her family.

Eun Y. Kim
Mother of NYO-USA Trumpet Player Lincoln Valdez

Carnegie Hall. Growing up in Korea, I remembered the hall’s name because it carried magic and demanded awe: Only the best musicians in the world performed there. When a Korean musician (often with exceptional talent) appeared at the Hall, it became national news to inspire all aspiring musicians of Korea. Although my uncle was a music professor, it never occurred to me that my own family member would ever play at the venerable Carnegie Hall—not once, but three times.

NYO Lincoln Valdez parent blog 2013
NYO Lincoln Valdez parent blog 2014   NYO Lincoln Valdez parent blog 2015
Top: 2013, Lincoln rehearses at BBC Proms (Photo: Chris Lee); Bottom left: 2014, Lincoln lets violist Rachel Barnett operate the valves of his trumpet (Photo: Chris Lee); Bottom right: 2015, Lincoln plays his trumpet backstage at Purchase College, SUNY (Photo: Matthew Chow)

My son, Lincoln Valdez, was 17 when he became a part of this wonderful venue. I still remember the time and place, as if it were a major historical event, when I got the email from NYO-USA and how ecstatic I was. Since then, the NYO calendar has been our family calendar, and the last three NYO experiences changed Lincoln’s life and ours. Each year, Lincoln eagerly waited for the music selections and spent endless hours practicing because he enjoyed it. In Korea, where music was a required class until high school, I thought I knew a lot about classical music. Lincoln showed me how little I knew. His eagerness helped us to learn about the composers, conductors, and soloists—so our lives have been enriched. But most importantly, we have gotten to know the future composers, conductors, and soloists within NYO-USA. These amazing kids will shape the music world. I remember the first year, when he came back from the tour: “Mom and dad, I have met the most interesting people and made amazing friends.” After each tour, he returned home inspired and transformed. As the first NYO conductor, Valery Gergiev, said, “These kids come to NYO as children and leave as adults.”

Sadly, it’s time for us to say goodbye to NYO-USA. Lincoln will be 20 in 2016. So the last concert of 2015, at Hong Kong Cultural Center, was particularly emotional for us. When violinist Soyeong Park cried, my husband and I also shed tears. My 85-year-old mother who just had flown in from Korea also had tears of joy. We were also at the season-ending concerts at Royal Albert Hall in London in 2013 and Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles in 2014, so I know the final concert is hard for all the musicians as well. “I miss my home family, but I don’t want this to ever end,” one NYO member told me.

NYO Lincoln Valdez parent blog family1   NYO Lincoln Valdez parent blog family2
Left: Lincoln joins his family in the lobby of Shenzhen Concert Hall (Photo: Chris Lee); Right: Lincoln's Korean grandmother traveled from Seoul for NYO-USA's Hong Kong performance.

Fortunately, their friendships and lifetime connections will never end. For Lincoln, NYO-USA has become his extended family. When he attended an admit week at a college in Boston, his first-year NYO buddies arranged a reunion. In turn, he hosted a get-together for NYO admits at Stanford. His NYO friends became a part of our family: We got to have pizza with Lincoln’s friends in London, Korean food and ice cream in Los Angeles, and a fusion lunch in New York City.

We also joined Carnegie Hall Friends. I reminded Lincoln of his obligation to support NYO and Carnegie Hall when he is able to do that, quoting a Bible verse with which Bill Gates’s mother inspired his son to do something great: “From everyone who has been given much, much will be required.” Thank you, NYO-USA. Thank you, Carnegie Hall. Thank you, all the sponsors and staff. Mostly, thank you, members of the National Youth Orchestra of the United States of America, who have made our lives magical for the last three years.

Learn more about the National Youth Orchestra of the United States of America.

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