Senior Soloists

This past Saturday in Cochran Chapel, five Seniors performed at the Senior Soloist Recital, displaying their musical talents and culminating their musical careers at Andover.

William Duan: Violin

Four beats rang out from the piano, echoing in Cochran Chapel before William Duan ’19 began a flurry of octaves on the violin. Duan performed a rendition of “Violin Concerto in D Major, Op. 61” by Ludwig van Beethoven.

“As a musician, you don’t perform for yourself; you perform for other people. It’s really cool that I get to bring Beethoven’s music and my music to all those people in the audience,” said Duan.

Duan had previously played the same piece accompanying two soloists. After that performance, he decided to compete with it in the 2018 Senior Concerto Competition, which is the contest that decides which students will perform in Senior Soloist Recitals. When he plays, Duan attempts to channel the feelings of the composer.

“Beethoven is not exactly a big happy guy but in this piece, but I feel like he’s not as depressed as he usually is. I had to try to find this happy part in Beethoven’s life,” said Duan.

According to Duan, playing for an audience is a form of personal validation after countless hours of practice and hard work.

“I learned this piece a year and a half ago so it felt good to finally to play this piece after a year and a half of work. Playing this piece in front of people makes me feel like my work is not wasted,” said Duan.

Jonathan Lin: Cello

Opening with a soft and light chord on the cello, Jonathan Lin ’19 performed Schumann’s “Cello Concerto in A minor, Op. 129.” Lin has been playing the cello for nine years and considers this performance to be one of the highlights of his Andover music career.

“This performance is a huge milestone for me, because it’s something I’ve wanted to do since I came here. [It] was a culmination of a lot of efforts. I am not just a cellist, so it’s just one part of my music career, but it’s still pretty cool,” said Lin.

According to Christina Cho ’19, a cellist in the school’s Symphony Orchestra, the Schumann concerto is a notoriously difficult piece.

Cho said, “The Schumann Cello Concerto is a really hard piece to play. It’s long and you have to think a lot about musicality and how you’re phrasing things and there are a lot of big shifts, but [Lin] did a good job of putting everything together.”

According to Lin, that particular concerto has interesting contrasts in terms of tone, dynamics, and tempos.

“Schumann Cello Concerto is my favorite cello concerto by far. The first time I listened to it, something was sparked in my mind. I love listening to it and playing it. The piece itself is very two-sided. I like how there are two distinct sides and a clash, and I was trying to express that,” said Lin.

Chloe Choi: Violin

Beginning with slow, minor melodies, Chloe Choi ’19 launched into the “Sibelius Violin Concerto in D minor, Op. 47.” Choi has been playing violin for 14 years, and her passion for the instrument was initially fostered by her family’s love for classical music. 

“Until I was in elementary school, the only music I would listen to was classical music. Whether in the car or apartment, I would always listen to classical music. We have a small room back in Korea where I live, all the four walls is full of CDs. Probably 300 to 400 CDs. I had this environment where I naturally got interested in violin,” said Choi.

Choi selected the Sibelius violin concerto to perform because of its musical complexities. According to Choi, the concerto is not only enjoyable just for the audience, but also for her.

“Something about Sibelius touches my unconsciousness. It’s something that I can’t explain in words, but if I listen, it’s so complex and mesmerizing. I really don’t get that feeling from any other concerto. It also has this special thing where it’s weirdly complex, serene, sad, but also joyful,” said Choi.

After Andover, Choi hopes to continue her musical career by joining symphony orchestras and bands in college.

“When I am going to college, I am definitely planning to join a symphony orchestra…even if I go to [a] college [that does] not have a school orchestra I can join, I hope that I can join an amateur orchestra,” said Choi.

Mona Suzuki: Violin

With a deep breath, Mona Suzuki ’19 drew her bow across her violin and opened Henri Vieuxtemp’s “Violin Concerto No. 5 in A minor, Op. 37” with a rapid run of melodies. Suzuki has played this piece since middle school and violin for thirteen years.

“I’ve been playing violin for most of my life so it’s become a part of my lifestyle. For the most part, I try to practice every day so it’s a part of daily routine as well. Not only is music a way to express myself, but it’s also part of my lifestyle so I think I’m attached to it because of how familiar it is and because it’s a way to relieve stress and express my emotions through violin,” said Suzuki.

Although Suzuki thoroughly practiced for the concert, she was wary of the differences between practicing alone and performing in front of an audience.

“Performance-wise, playing in front of other people is not the same as performing by yourself in a practice room in Graves Hall. It’s more nerve-wracking…so calming yourself down getting into the piece is something that tends to be challenging. Ultimately, you have to remember that people aren’t there to critique you, they’re there to enjoy your piece,” said Suzuki.

Despite the challenges, she considered the performance to be a success, overcoming any of the mental obstacles that came her way.

“Overall, I was able to concentrate and put in most of my efforts into this performance. I was able to perform like I was practicing which means I was focused. I tried to put a lot of emotion in,” said Suzuki.

Jennifer Lawson: Clarinet

Jennifer Lawson ’19 jumped quickly from note to note, beginning the cadenza of Aaron Copland’s “Concerto for Clarinet” with rapid rhythms. Lawson has been playing the clarinet for seven years and wanted to complete her Andover music career with a unique and entertaining piece.

“I wanted something that was really weird because a lot of clarinet repertoires are…extremely vanilla. I was listening to many different pieces and I found one which I thought it was different and fun. It’s very unconventional.”

According to Lawson, the complex time signatures and intricate rhythms became a challenge for her as she learned this concerto over the course of this year.

“[The most challenging part was] probably the timing because it’s so abstract and syncopated. Then again, I chose that because I wanted to be weird. There’s a lot of time changes and weird rests,” said Lawson.

As a clarinetist, playing solo pieces is always an engaging opportunity to approach music in a different way, according to Lawson.

“Most of the time, I’m in bigger ensembles or orchestras. So being a soloist is a different dynamic. I had Ms. Palmer [as my accompanist] and she is amazing. She always catches me when I fall. It’s definitely different than playing with 10 other clarinets in a big band of other instruments,” said Lawson.