Freshman’s dedication to violin leads to outstanding achievements

March 24, 2017 — by Vivien Zhang and Katherine Zhou

Freshman succeeds through playing violin.

As freshman Christine Lee faced an intimidating audience at the U.S. Open Music Competition last year, her violin at hand, she was exceedingly calm even as she was competing with 17 other elite musicians. Lee played one of her favorite pieces, the Wieniawski Concerto.

Lee emerged as the winner of the competition, like most of the competitions she enters. Although she admits to having nerves before each competition, she seems to find her is confidence the moment she begins to play, knowing she has practiced each piece to perfection.

Her genuine passion and sincere enjoyment of her instrument have sustained her through the hours needed to master the violin.

In addition, Lee has achieved something freshmen rarely do: being the concertmaster, or first chair, in the All-State Orchestra, the California Youth Symphony (CYS), and the school’s freshman orchestra. In fact, she is the first freshman ever to become concertmaster of the All-State Orchestra.

She has also played in a chamber group, consisting of a piano, violin and cello, and has taken part in the “Music at Menlo” camp for the past two summers.

As a young child, Lee was mainly motivated to practice because of her mother’s nagging, a constant reminder that she would never improve without practice. However, she was soon meeting other motivated musicians and setting goals of getting into elite camps and competitions encouraged her to enjoy practicing her instrument.

“Watching all my friends from ‘Music at Menlo’ devour the music really motivated me and made me want to be as good as they were,” Lee said. “That camp definitely motivates me, so that I can see my friends again every year.”

The ease with which she plays this instrument, however, does not at all show the struggles that went into becoming such an expert violinist at such a young age.

Lee has often felt frustrated because playing violin has taken up such a significant part of her life. She struggles to find the time and concentration to practice.

“Trying to master so many pieces at once is definitely a demanding task,” Lee said. “But at the same time it’s worth the satisfaction when you’ve gone through a lot of hardship to learn a piece that sounds incredibly beautiful.”

Since last September, Lee has dedicated about four hours of her time every Saturday to drive to Richmond to visit her violin teacher. Although the journey is time-consuming, and requires a parent to be there at all times, Lee’s family willingly dedicates their time. Lee says she continues to receive much of her inspiration from these private sessions and looks forward to it no matter how rigorous and intense they may be.

“I just recently switched teachers, and my new teacher is so nice and funny,” Lee said. “Initially, I really hated going to lessons, but now I’m so excited to see him again. I don’t want to see him disappointed, so I try a lot harder.”

Lee began playing the violin when she was 5. Six months earlier, she tried her hand at piano, but decided to try the violin in order to play a different instrument than her older sister, junior Michelle Lee.

Michelle, who is also very involved in music, understands the time and effort Christine has put into her violin.

“My sister is so humble, and she always comes back after an audition or a competition, and saying ‘I ruined it, that was so bad,’ but ends up getting first chair. I think that her accomplishments are just so impressive,” said Michelle, a flute player in the California Philharmonic Youth Orchestra (CPYO).

Currently, Christine has some trouble seeing her future in violin, because it is so hard for musicians, especially violinists, to be financially stable adults. Nevertheless, she realizes that violin has added so much to her life.

“Playing violin has taught me to persevere, and it has given me patience, because I just stand there and play on an instrument for countless numbers of hours,” Christine said. “It’s taught me that you have to sacrifice some things to get better at others.”

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