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The Saratoga Falcon

The Saratoga Falcon

Senior’s percussion talent strikes on a national level

Carnegie Hall. If there were ever a single building in the entire world that symbolized the epitome of greatness and success in any musician’s career, Carnegie Hall would be it. While some people spend their whole life working toward their moment in Carnegie, senior marimba talent Desmond Chan managed to earn his chance in the short time of three years.

“If you really like something a lot, then you shouldn’t need someone to go tell you to go practice,” Chan said. “I know it’s cliché, but practice is really all there is to it.”

Chan began playing the marimba during his freshman year. Practicing was difficult at first, mainly because Chan was not used to holding four mallets his hands. According to Chan, learning to control all the mallets felt awkward and often painful. Chan was blessed with the wise teachings of his marimba teacher Tammy Chen. By his sophomore year, Chan managed to become the pit percussion section leader in the marching band.

“She was the one that showed me what was capable on the instrument, like the difficulty of pieces that could be played on the marimba,” Chan said.

Part of Chan’s success includes his masterful performances at competitions. Chan was selected as one of 30 grand winners after sending in an audition video at the National Young Virtuosi Recital Competition and the National Young Musicians Showcase Competition, which gave him the opportunity to perform in Carnegie Hall. Other impressive achievements include an invitation to play as the opening act at the prestigious Junior Bach Festival after auditioning in front of multiple judges.

“It is evident to me that he is a miraculous talent, but he also understands the concept of deep practice,” music department chairman Michael Boitz said. “Miraculous performers like Yo-Yo Ma, Michael Jordan or anyone who’s at that level of genius as they say, have learned how to practice and dedicate themselves with the combination of talent, which gives some incredible results.”

In addition, Chan was invited to play a solo recital at Ding Ding TV, a station that broadcasts online to viewers around the United States. The performance consisted of five pieces and allotted time for Chan to talk about the marimba between each piece.

“It was arguably one of the most remarkable performances I have seen out of a high school student in 14 years,” Boitz said. “Desmond performed works of undergraduate and graduate level with a clear understanding of the composer’s intentions.”

However, these achievements come as no surprise given Chan’s unique ear for hearing music and virtuosic practicing style.

Chan says he tries to practice a few hours daily, starting with scales and warm-ups until his hands feel comfortable and then turning his attention to his pieces.

“Whenever I work on pieces, I take a look at the trouble spots and then piece it back together,” Chan said. “I try to match a story with the music, which could be from my experiences or just a story I made up.”

Chan is unsure whether or not he wishes to pursue a career in music. However, Chan is determined to promote the popularity of the marimba and inspire others to play this underplayed instrument.

“Once you get past the awkwardness of holding four mallets in your hand, it’s all good,” Chan said. “Try playing [the marimba]. It’s very fun, and not enough people play it.”

After accomplishing so much at a young age, Chan’s talents have earned him the accolades of his judges and peers. Chan’s constant practicing and success have even inspired his neighbor and peer in marching band, junior Andy Wong.

“He’s good and he’s always practicing every day for hours no matter what time it is,” Wong said. “It is an honor to have someone as good as Desmond playing with us in the band.”

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