The musicians of NYO-USA arrived in Amsterdam this past weekend for the first stop of the orchestra’s 2016 European tour. Cellist Ryan Chung reflects on the first few days of travel.
Perhaps it is because I am older that I am better able to appreciate the inherent beauty of the city of Amsterdam. Or perhaps it is because I am elated that I am traveling with great company in the people of NYO-USA. Regardless, this trip to Amsterdam has already been more exhilarating than my last.
Saying goodbye to Purchase was a bittersweet farewell—an elegy written by our jaded appetites to the Purchase food, and also a christening of the ship that is our European tour. Following the tedious procedures at the airport, we settled into our seats on the airplane and were given a congenial welcome from the flight crew, who introduced us in the announcements as “NYO-USA, young musicians of the United States of America.” There was something about her mention of being a young musician, especially one who represented the US, that bolstered my sense of responsibility, which had already been instilled by the fact that it was my first flight without my parents.
All photography by Ryan Chung
My background as an avid traveler naively led me to believe that my tours and sightseeing from a few years ago were enough to adequately absorb the local culture. However, as my eyes wandered outside on the canal cruise, I beheld an amalgam of shapes and colors. The rivers and streets densely dotted with trees and buildings created an image so picturesque that even a camera would ruin it. That, I realized, was the power of changing perspectives with age and the power of being part of a group such as NYO-USA. To elaborate, this musical tour truly enhances the cultural experience. This not only refers to our ability to enjoy time at cultural hotspots such as the Rijksmuseum and the Van Gogh Museum, but it also applies to the musical enrichment that we receive by being able to perform with the highly esteemed Valery Gergiev and Denis Matsuev in halls such as the Concertgebouw. Our first rehearsal, although tiring for most due to jet lag, was particularly enlightening in that music’s power as a universal medium became apparent: We are able to draw in a foreign audience with music from composers foreign to the audience and to us. I am indubitably excited for the concert on Thursday because I will be given the opportunity to perform in one of the greatest halls in the world with fellow musicians that I have come to love as a family.
Learn more about the National Youth Orchestra of the United States of America.