Violinist Audrey Sun ’23 was on tour in Greece with the Boston Philharmonic Youth Orchestra, about to perform the Fifth Symphony by Dmitri Shostakovich, when an audience member stood up before the performance and yelled, “No more propaganda.” According to Sun, the Fifth Symphony’s composition is recognized as a form of artistic protest against Stalin’s government, and although the audience member was quickly escorted out of the building, the phrase made her reflect on the meaning and power of the music she would perform.
“When I was playing the symphony, I just kept thinking about her words, and I was like, ‘I need to show that this music is not propaganda. This is what he wanted to say.’ Shostakovich was conveying that people actually do have individual voices beneath the Stalinist government, but they couldn’t say that out loud or else they would basically get killed. I just felt really moved, even as a performer… I had a strong conviction when I was playing, and I felt like the whole orchestra felt that,” said Sun.
Since beginning violin at the age of four, Sun has developed her playing to not only convey her own individuality but also the different emotions and messages represented within the notes. This connection to the music has not helped her grow as a violinist, but also understand more deeply what it means to be a musician.
“I really liked the work of trying to translate the music into sound. [When] you see the notes on the page, you need to think about what each of them means and how they all tie together into phrases, how you can make different characters and colors from it, and how to make that sound on the violin, and how to bring it to audiences,” said Sun.
At Andover, Sun has been able to explore music further and contribute to the Chamber Music Society and Academy Orchestras, where she serves as a co-concertmaster. According to fellow violinist Karen Wang ’24, Sun’s dedication and deep connection to her music can be felt by the orchestra and peers in the music community.
“[She] tries out various interpretations and tries to find the version that is the most musically appropriate. The way that she interprets the music, just [from] the way she’s playing or her body language, you can tell she’s connected to the music, and that ripples to the other players in the orchestra. She really takes what she plays to heart,” said Wang.
Sun also stated that her music experiences at Andover have encouraged her to take the initiative and gain new perspectives on music. One of her fondest memories at Andover is from participating in Andover-Lawrence Strings, a community engagement program where string players at Andover teach beginner elementary school kids from Lawrence how to play string instruments.
“[It’s] the first time I taught music to people, and it just made me better at communicating and listening to people. The first thing I taught them was how to hold the violin and then we taught them how to play ‘Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star.’ I worked with two fourth graders, and both of them [were] so energetic. When they finally learned how to play [it], it brought me a lot of joy to see them really happy. It also brought me a new perspective on music, before I [realized] music could bring me to other people who I might have not [met otherwise],” said Sun.