Hazel Koh ’21 Uses Violin to Express Herself and Connect with her Childhood

Hazel Koh ’21, accompanied with the other members of her Chamber Orchestra group, glided her bow over the strings of her violin to deliver the full harmonies of Edvard Grieg’s “String Quartet in G minor, Op. 27” to the audience in the Tinken Room of Graves Hall. According to Koh, this moment, a cumulation of the group’s hard work and thrice-weekly meetings throughout the term, holds a special place in her heart.

“One of my favorite Chamber moments was the day we performed it. When we were performing it it was so fun, and there was so much passion. It was really rewarding to have all of our hard work over that whole term amount to that performance. I was really proud of that performance I think we did really well,” Koh said.

Koh grew up to a soundtrack of her sister’s deep-toned cello and countless repetitions of Joshua Bell playing the “Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto”, which inspired her to pick up the violin in the first place.

“I started playing at the age of five, and it was because my sister played cello… that’s what inspired me,” said Koh, “I like all the instruments, but I think that compared to the cello sounds the violin is more light and it just fits my personality better, if that makes any sense.”

Koh uses her instrument as a means of self-expression in her everyday life. She put this in the context of the pieces she plays, including her current piece “Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto,” which she chose as a reminder of this childhood experience.

“[T]here’s a lot of different emotions in [the Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto]. I definitely like channeling those dramatic emotions. There’s always passion– sometimes it’s anger, sometimes it’s happiness. I like channeling those emotions, and it’s cool how you can do that with music,” she said.

In addition to Chamber Orchestra, Koh is is traveling to Portugal with the Tour Orchestra in the spring. Her violin-playing skills and commitment to music has allowed her to obtain more prominent roles in orchestras. Last term, Koh was a Co-concertmaster of the Symphony Orchestra.

Koh’s friend, Isabel Chin ’21 said, “I play with Hazel in Chamber Orchestra and Symphony during fall. And she’s principal second violin right now, so she’s a really great leader for all of them and she really helps to bring the orchestra together with her diligent attention to detail.”

As a result of her involvement in the music community in Andover, Koh feels that she has expanded her view on music as more of a community-building endeavor than a solo activity. According to Koh, sharing music with her community is the most rewarding aspect of playing the violin.

“Before Andover, I didn’t really play in ensembles or anything. But I’ve learned after coming to Andover how fun it is to play music with other people. The music community is really cool, and I really like being part of it,” said Koh.

As evidence of the bonding experience in Orchestra, Koh’s friend Ariel Wang ’21 recalled how music has played a part in her friendship with Hazel, as they met in Junior year before their auditions for orchestra. Chin also recounted a similar experience.

“I met [Koh] through music too. When we were first auditioning, we ran into each other and she was preparing. [Koh] was really nervous so we just bonded over that. We both play in orchestra, and we’re both committed to playing music, so we share that connection,” said Chin.