NYO-USA Musician Blogs: Is this the real life?
Violist Faith Pak recalls one of her favorite memories from the National Youth Orchestra of the United States of America's residency and tour. She describes a moment far removed from the intensity of performances and rehearsals—one idyllic day with her friends at a park in Xi'an, replete with sunlight, bubbles, and pink clouds.
Bubbles and dappled sunlight serenaded us as we wandered into the tiny park in Xi’an. We had just arrived at our new hotel, queasy and sweaty from bus and airport purgatory, and my friends and I had decided to go exploring. Small shapes fluttered high in the sweet blue expanse above us—kites, as we discovered, with long tapering tails and multicolored wings, coasting the cashmere breeze. Old men and small children waved their bubble wands and reeled their kites in and out, shifting their weight lazily beside the bubbling canals and gardens. Violinist Will Yao, who always knew just what to do, bought us an orange plastic bubble wand, and we discovered true happiness, making light-catching bubbles as big as our hearts in that moment of pure serendipity.
Faith and other musicians pose for a photo in Xi'an. (Photography: Violinist Kisa Uradomo)
The Xi’an park resembled my actual childhood dreamland, which I would think about before I dozed off, sans pink cloud walkways. But the walkways in this park may as well have been made out of cloud, with the fresh lightness we felt in our feet. I don’t think I’d felt that way since I was very small. Now that I try to remember this moment, it feels like a dream—not just a dream as in something you’d wish for, but also like an actual sleeping dream, hazy on the edges after the fact, yet incredibly clear when you experienced it. You’d wake up and think, how could I have believed that was real? But it was real, and I have the pictures to prove it.
The park in Xi'an (Photography: Violinist Kisa Uradomo)
“Is this the real life? Is this just fantasy?” Cellist Chris Gao would quote “Bohemian Rhapsody” throughout the tour as it would just get better and better, in ways we could never have even imagined. From the adrenaline rush of the sparkling concerts and the sensory overload of the breakfast buffets, to the long hours in transit with friends, to the deep sense of missing it all that overwhelmed me when I woke up back in my own bed, the beauty of NYO-USA is that it takes you through the whole range of human emotion in just a few short weeks. It’s a bit like a monthlong holiday get-together with family—a loud, socially complex party with much food and fatigue and fondness and music.
Yet in the midst of all the sound and fireworks of NYO-USA, the day in the tiny Xi’an park was one of the best days. As a pretty shy person, it takes a lot for me to let people into my circle of trust, but at NYO-USA, I started to see my friends as practically my adopted family. For a moment, I was five-year-old Faith wandering around the playground with my bubble blower, staring up at the kites in the clouds, completely at peace and in love with my friends. I found my home that day, halfway around the world.
To the people who dreamed up this fantasy of NYO-USA and somehow made it come true, I’d like to say, a thousand times, thank you.
Top Photo: Violinist Kisa Uradomo in the Xi'an park described by Faith (Photo: Cellist Isabella Palacpac)