The Youth Chamber Initiative Inspires Emotion and Empowerment Through Music

The YCI will hold their final concert in the Cochran Chapel on April 24th.

The performance celebrated Asian American Pacific Islander and women composers.

Tears welled up in senior citizens’ eyes after listening to Andover musicians Ethan Liu ’26 and Anny Wang ’26 perform jazz standard “On the Sunny Side of the Street,” for the Youth Chamber Initiative (YCI).

Organized by Alana Chiang ’24, Lindsey Lee ’25, and Matthew Wang ’26, board members, the Youth Chamber Initiative features jazz and classical music highlighting underrepresented composers. Last year, the group performed pieces to honor Ukraine. This year, their focus is primarily on Asian American, Pacific Islander, and women composers. The program was kickstarted in 2022 after Lee and Chiang won a 1000 dollar grant from the Chamber Music Society of the Lincoln Center. Lee described YCI’s achievements this year.

“This year we’re taking our performances to the greater Merrimack Valley, and by doing this, we’re… encouraging the greater community to engage [in] chamber music regardless of age, gender, background, status, etc. We feature musicians of the highest caliber who have been exemplifying their unwavering dedication and passion for the craft, and they’ve been working so hard to practice these pieces we’ve found by the underrepresented composers. They are really just the core of our organization,” said Lee.

In addition to featuring underrepresented groups, the initiative spotlights student composers, such as Helios Hong ’25, who debuted his arrangement of the “Butterfly Lovers Violin Concerto” for viola and piano at a concert.

“The main theme and tune of the ‘Butterfly Lovers Concerto’ comes from Chinese folk songs that date to probably more than a 1000 years ago. In the last 100 years, there was a composer who took those themes and incorporated them into his violin concerto. It was a mixture between eastern music and western instrumentation… I first heard this tune when I was five or six years old. My grandma sang [it] to me a lot when I was young. It’s something I hold really close to me, like a symbol of my family,” said Hong. 

The YCI has already had two concerts this year, one at the South Church (in downtown Andover) and, more recently, in a senior center in North Andover. They plan to hold their season finale concert in the Cochran Chapel on April 24. Pianist Anny Wang stated that audience reactions exemplified the impact of the initiative. 

“I could visibly see how a lot of senior citizens were so excited to hear [the music] because I’m sure they’ve lived through the experience. I remember this one senior, who was the previous music department chair at Andover, came up to us and talked about how proud she [was] of the music department at Andover now, and the students carrying the legacy on,” Wang said.