Seniors to pursue music at prestigious universities

June 1, 2023 — by Zachary Zinman
Graphic by Annie Liu
As many seniors go off to study computer science, business and biomedical engineering, some seniors go on to pursue their musical passions in college.

Entranced by the sound of Joel Kim’s cello feature, audience members could not let their eyes off of the performance on the evening of March 11, 2022. As his hands moved gracefully on the neck of the cello, Joel jerked his head dramatically to the accented rhythms of “Schelomo,” composed by Ernest Bloch. He used his musical talent to control the atmosphere of the entire McAfee Center audience.

It was a brilliant and memorable performance.

“I think every piece has its own story to tell,” Joel said. “As a musician, I am that storyteller. Performing Schelomo was the first time I really let go with the idea of musical storytelling.”

He began his musical journey with the cello in fourth grade after he saw high school students perform a composition of the Star Wars theme. Awed by the captivating sound of the orchestra, he felt compelled to start learning how to play the cello.

Now, Joel, along with some others in the graduating Class of 2023, plans to pursue their musical talents further as an integral part of their college education.

Joel has committed to The Columbia-Juilliard Program, a joint program between the two schools, to blend his academic and musical passions. Though he has not decided on his academic major, he wants to continue his musical pursuits through college.

To get into such a prestigious program, Joel took advantage of high-level musical opportunities throughout high school. In January of his senior year, Joel participated in the highly exclusive 2023 National YoungArts Week, in which gifted artists from around the country collaborate across 10 different disciplines.

“It was one of the happiest moments of my life,” Joel said. “I had so much fun collaborating with other classical musicians, poets, writers, singers, actors and designers from across the country. Just getting to understand their artistic process inspired me to propel my art form.”

On top of participating in this program, Joel was named one of eight nominees for 2023 U.S. Presidential Scholars in the Arts in the category of classical music.

Joel is not the only senior planning to pursue his passion for music in college: Woody Li also plans to major in Music and Technology at Carnegie Mellon University, which consists of a combination of engineering, computer, recording and music courses.

Woody started music on the piano and began playing the trumpet, his main instrument, in 5th grade. He then learned bass guitar and guitar.

On top of participating in the school band program, Woody is also a part of Peach Fuzz, a 5-piece indie pop rock band that plays at school events, and the Jazz Combo, which performs at events both in and outside of school.

Though he does not know what specifically he wants to do after college, Woody wants to pursue a career related to music after the music program in college.

“I’m really excited to get involved with such a highly rated program,” Woody said. “I like that the program is very broad. I’m going to do a lot of things I never thought I would be able to do. I didn’t think I would incorporate programming with music.”

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