The Student News Site of Saratoga High School

The Saratoga Falcon

The Saratoga Falcon

The Saratoga Falcon

Senior Mag 2024: Nancy of all trades: Senior discovers community through music, martial arts and sports

Sam Kau
Nancy has spent the last three years playing for the school’s softball team.

Don’t let her humble smile fool you: Nancy Lei is a well-rounded powerhouse. When she wasn’t wowing classmates with her energetic dance moves during the senior Homecoming quad day K-pop performances or playing violin in the pit orchestra for the spring musical, she anchored down shortstop and third base for the school’s softball team in the spring and played No. 1 doubles with sophomore Sasha Prasad on the tennis team in the fall. As though that weren’t enough, she has also spent years practicing martial arts at a local kung fu studio.

While juggling all her activities was sometimes tiring, looking back on her past four years of relentless activity, Nancy feels that the best part of high school was forming friendships through her extracurriculars. 

“I like [my extracurriculars] because I can meet new people with similar interests,” Nancy said. “They’re a break from schoolwork where I can just have fun, exercise and share music.”

A veteran violinist with a decade of experience under her belt, Nancy not only discovered a passion for expressive, romantic-era music (think Brahms and Sibelius) but also brought her talent to the vibrant musical community at school. She played for Saratoga Strings and Saratoga String Orchestra (SSO) in addition to the drama program’s roughly 20-member pit orchestra. The pit orchestra often ran through their pieces with drama students in the McAfee Center, complementing the cast members’ singing as the two groups worked through cues and timings together.

“[Pit orchestra] was a really nice experience,” she said. “I got to connect with drama kids as well, which let me open up from my usual orchestra bubble, and I ended up making a lot of friends from drama.”

Nancy said one of her favorite high school memories was performing as the Fiddler for two shows of the 2022 spring musical “Fiddler on the Roof.” For these performances, she had just two days’ notice to practice her parts and memorize them after the original Fiddler, violist Tejas Tirthapura, got sick — but her intense effort over that short window of time paid off during her performance. As she stood on top of the house that drama set designers built with the spotlight shining down on her, Nancy found performing in the musical to be a “nerve-wracking” but exhilarating experience. 

Her experience with performing arts wasn’t limited to just music, however. Many might not know that Nancy is also a seasoned Shaolin kung fu martial artist and a casual K-pop dancer (a hobby she picked up over summer break by teaching herself from YouTube videos). 

While Nancy said she didn’t participate in many school spirit events prior to this year, dancing in senior quad day turned out to be one of the highlights of her year.

“The best part of quad day was meeting other people who also like K-pop, and working with others to dance. It was just out of my usual comfort zone, because usually most people don’t know I do kung fu or I dance,” Nancy said. “I guess now, more people do.” 

While K-pop dance may seem wildly different from traditional kung fu, both require strength and fluidity which Nancy has developed from her years of training at Shaolin Kung Fu International and Dragon Rhythm Shaolin Kung Fu. For the past decade, she has learned traditional Shaolin forms that imitate animals: Her specialty is leopard form, which she describes as imitating leopards’ movements through slow motions followed by sudden, fast bursts of energy as well as jumps and flips. 

“Kung fu is a part of my culture, so I feel a sense of excitement and pride [for it],” she said.

She has even learned dragon and lion dancing alongside her younger sister as part of their academy’s team. Nancy recalls that she used to dance in the back of the lion costume and she could easily lift up her sister, who was in the front. Together, the two of them performed in various Chinese New Years’ celebrations in local parks.

Nancy no longer trains at her kung fu academy as intensely as she used to during middle school, putting in one or two hours a week. In the spring, much of her time was instead taken up by daily softball games and practices. This year also marked her fourth one on the tennis team.

While the prospect of taking on multiple athletic extracurriculars at once may be daunting for some, Nancy said she balanced her commitments by sticking to consistent daily habits. She also explained that the skills she has developed from kung fu, dance and sports all intertwined, which eased the difficulty of being a multisport athlete. 

“I think I was able to pick up dance kind of quickly because kung fu is really helpful for my movements and dance lines,” Nancy said. “And then with tennis and softball, I think swinging a tennis racket is really similar to a softball bat and gives me more power and precise contact with the ball.”

Far beyond being just an impressive array of talents to go on her college resume, she has found joy in her many extracurriculars — especially kung fu and violin, which she has done the longest. 

Looking forward to college, one thing that will not change for Nancy is her willingness to challenge herself with a full plate. Her goals are no less ambitious than in high school: She plans on double majoring in neuroscience or psychology along with music performance, and possibly going to medical school after her undergraduate coursework.

She anticipates focusing more on academics than extracurriculars in college but still hopes to carve time out of her day to participate in the many activities she loves and form new connections through clubs.

“Being around so many people with different personalities, like in sports or orchestra [during high school], definitely helped me open up more,” she said. “I think my confidence increased too, and I feel a stronger sense of belonging after joining different communities.”

Donate to The Saratoga Falcon

Your donation will support the student journalists of Saratoga High School. Your contribution will allow us to purchase equipment and cover our annual website hosting costs.

More to Discover
Donate to The Saratoga Falcon