By Noah Sheildlower
The melodic sound of young musicians tuning their instruments to the “A” of an oboe warms the concert hall as local residents stroll to their seats. The orchestra’s conductor makes his way through the tightly packed rows of string players, accompanied by a deafening applause. With the strike of his baton, the orchestra begins to play, each instrument blending in with those around it. Following the piece, the audience rises to its feet, admiring the musical mastery the young musicians achieved.
Within moments, the voices of the choir spread throughout the hall. The melodies of Broadway and Billy Joel allow even those who cannot understand the words to appreciate each piece. Once the final chord finishes ringing, the audience comes to its feet for a final time, each person taking a moment to thank the select group of high school musicians for their gift of music.
Two of these student musicians are sophomores Chloe Metz, violin, and Ashley Yu, soprano, who traveled to Spain this July as members of the Metropolitan Youth Orchestra of New York (MYO). For thirteen days, the musicians traveled from town to town to perform music from various cultures for local residents.
“In some cases, the entire town would come out to see the performance, and after the concert, people would wave from their homes or talk to us while they ate,” Yu said. “I found it amazing that we, as a group, were able to perform in so many different places.”
Metz and Yu began their musical careers at young ages, never turning down an opportunity to perform with their peers. Both of them continued to progress with the assistance of MYO, which Metz and Yu joined in middle school.
Using the skills their MYO conductors taught them, Metz and Yu lead their school ensembles in learning the music and performing it in a professional manner. While Yu guides the soprano section by assisting others in learning lyrics and rhythms, Metz helps tune the orchestra and determines fingerings and bow positions for the violin section. With pencils in hand, both musicians take note of instructions and execute them every time, providing examples for their peers to follow.
Metz and Yu “perform at the highest level and are dedicated above and beyond the classroom in their participation in chamber music, in the school musical or opera, in the community, and in [Great Neck South’s] performance ensembles,” music department chairperson Mr. Michael Schwartz said.
Yu was selected to perform in the Division IV All-County choir this year. In addition, Yu performs in school choir groups and in multiple theatrical activities.
Metz actively participates in a select chamber ensemble called La Camerata, consisting of both professionals and students of her private teacher. She also sits first chair, first violin in South’s string orchestra.
Although Yu and Metz have already fulfilled many of their goals at such young ages, they have encountered obstacles. For Metz, earning a seat in MYO was challenging; the two years before her acceptance, there were no openings for violinists because violin is so competitive. However, Metz continued to actively participate in other ensembles, learning about “being in a collaborative group” and “exuding sentiment” through playing. Using these skills, Metz not only secured her spot in the MYO orchestra but also developed her passion for sharing music with others.
Similarly, Yu learned how to share her passion with others after overcoming her lack of confidence. Previously unable to “stand in front of a crowd and talk, let alone perform” for them, her passion for singing enabled her to understand the importance of being “motivated by the people and the world around [her].” She realized her potential to showcase her talent in Coffee Houses and in theater, noncompetitive and welcoming atmospheres where she feels comfortable.
Having overcome their obstacles, both musicians plan on going on a similar MYO trip to Australia in two years. While music careers may not be in their future, both Metz and Yu want to continue treating music as a stress-relieving, entertaining activity that introduces them to new cultures and aspects of themselves.
But for now, with three more years of high school performances left, Metz and Yu continue to fulfill their musical goals and inspire others to do the same. “Look at your audience, smile, and tell a story,” Metz said. “Don’t try to impress them; give them the gift of music.”