Musicians of SIS: Angela Jang

Andrew Ham

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3:00. Angela Jang (12) walks down the stairs, carefully balancing her violin on one shoulder and her backpack on the other. While her friends leave for the bus, chatting excitedly amongst themselves, Angela takes a sharp turn towards the elementary school and towards the band room, where orchestra practice is held every Monday afterschool.

3:10. Angela carefully lifts her violin out of its case and fits the shoulder rest, making sure it sits well on her neck. She then tightens the screw on her bow—the paintbrush she will use to produce gentle and wafting notes of music—and with preparations complete, walks into the room where a multitude of musicians are practicing their craft.

3:15. Michael Ganus and Julia Kim, conductors of the orchestra, call ensemble into order, waving at a group of raucous students who would rather be on the bus home. Angela stands and brings the violin to her shoulder, and the wood grows alive at her touch. She plays a straight A; the orchestra watches and adjusts until all of the musicians are playing the note in tandem. It’s a familiar scene for most in the orchestra; “Angela has been the concertmaster [the highest position in orchestra] forever,” someone jokes, and the violinists around him nod in tacit agreement as if it were an inside joke.

The girl in question laughs at the comment. “People assume that I’ve always been the concertmaster,” Angela says. “But that’s just not true. They say that failure sticks to you the most, and I’ve been removed from my position several times before. I had gotten used to the concertmaster position, numb to its importance, and had become lax about my responsibilities. Those moments get to me a lot.”

The owner and instrument are inseparable now, but Angela wasn’t always so concerned with the violin; in fact, as she admits, she “chose the violin because it was cheaper than the cello and because it was more well-known.” The elementary school she attended had required her to play an instrument for music class, and Angela assumed that music would only be temporary.

To her surprise, Angela kept playing the instrument into middle school. “I was an average player for years and never stood out from the rest of the orchestra,” Angela recounts. “But that changed one year when I was asked to play ‘Bruch’s Concerto in G Minor’ for a concert. It was a piece that was way above my level, but at that point I had decided, with my own conviction, to take on the challenge.”

After months of intense practice and a nerve-racking concert, Angela realized with pleasant surprise that she had taken a leap in her development. “I had truly pushed myself to the limits—on my own accord—and that lifted me from mediocrity.” With such encouraging growth, Angela began to play with newfound passion and inspiration.

“Now, I think that I will definitely play in an orchestra as an undergraduate and even as an adult,” Angela confesses. The elementary student who never even wanted to touch a violin has now truly become a genuine and accomplished musician, one of her kind at SIS.

“People in this school often view music as a system, just another extracurricular activity in their college plans,” Angela says. “This is why you see some students complaining about orchestra and how much they hate to practice. I see it as something different. Once people can let go of the belief that music is nothing more than another extracurricular activity, they can realize that it holds intrinsic values that anybody can enjoy.”

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