Every year talented young musicians from throughout the country go to New York for Carnegie Hall’s NYO2 (National Youth Orchestra 2) program, a prestigious, highly-selective opportunity to study with members of major American orchestras and conservatories — and to perform onstage at Carnegie Hall.
This year four members of the Hawaii Youth Symphony were chosen:
>> Matin Boulos, 16, has been playing the acoustic double bass for seven years. She finished her sophomore year at Mid-Pacific Institute this spring and will be attending Colburn Music Academy in Los Angeles in the fall.
>> Emi Horii, 17, was born in England and discovered the violin at the age of 5. Horii came to Hawaii in 2009 and went to ‘Iolani School, where she became a member of ‘Iolani Orchestra 5 and the ‘Iolani Scholarship Chamber Ensemble. Horii graduated from ‘Iolani in June and plans to attend Haverford College in Pennsylvania in the fall.
>> Sewon Park, 17, took up the viola four years ago and just finished her junior year at Punahou School. She is principal violist of Hawaii Youth Symphony I and the Punahou Symphony Orchestra; she is also the violist for the Keller String Quartet in the Punahou Chamber Music program.
>> Stephanie Yoshida, 17, has been playing the violin for 11 years. She joined the Hawaii Youth Symphony at the age of 8 and is currently a member of its Youth Symphony I. Yoshida has been a member of the Punahou Chamber Music program for four years. This is the second year she qualified for NYO2.
Then came COVID-19. The trip to New York was replaced by digital training — private lessons, studio sectionals and master classes — and performances led by principals from American orchestras and alumni from national youth ensembles. The 80-member student orchestra would have been playing “Morning Mood,” from Norwegian composer Edvard Grieg’s four-movement suite, “Peer Gynt,” onstage at Carnegie Hall. However, the concert will now be a virtual compilation performance assembled from video clips recorded individually by the participants. For information on the video, go to 808ne.ws/carnegiehall.
Even as a virtual event, NYO2 2020 still required plenty of preparation time.
Boulos, Horii, Park and Yoshida recently brought their instruments to Ala Moana Park to talk about their music, while maintaining proper social distancing. They were accompanied by HYS President Randy Wong, HYS publicist Hannah Clauss and veteran jazz musician/recording artist Dean Taba, who happens to be Boulos’ stepfather and “roadie.”
Question: Other than classes until the end of school, and practicing for NYO2, what have you been doing during the stay-at-home order?
Stephanie Yoshida: I’ve been spending a lot of time with my family — catching up on work I should have done during the school year.
Sewon Park: I’ve been spending a lot of time with my family. It’s really nice because all of us are at home and we get to talk more and bond together more. And I’ve been working on collage apps ’cause I’m going to be a senior this coming year.
Emi Horii: I’ve been trying a lot of new things. I cook a lot more for my family now (and) they’re also teaching me how to cook once I go to college. And I’ve been practicing a whole lot more. NYO set up a lot of lessons and master class opportunities for us. It’s an amazing opportunity even online — the faculty and staff that they have is really prestigious — and I’m really grateful that they’ve continued to set it up for us.
Matin Boulos: I’ve been preparing a lot for going to Colburn Music Academy, and doing a lot of bass classes online. I’ve been taking piano (lessons) lately, which is really fun, and I’m sewing a lot more, which is great.
Q: The double bass is a huge instrument for a kid to have to carry around — I say “kid” because you were 9 when you started playing it — and it is a big instrument for anyone to carry around. What got you interested?
Matin Boulos: My stepdad, Dean Taba, is a bassist, and when he moved in he brought his electric basses and his uprights (basses), and I really wanted to be a part of that too.
Q: You all had to make a video recording of yourselves playing your part in “Morning Mood.” How did that go?
Stephanie Yoshida: They wanted us to record it outdoors with a concept of “natural and home.” And since we live in such a beautiful place in Hawaii, I thought it would be nice to “flex” on the mainlanders, so I recorded my section in Kakaako Waterfront Park with the beach behind me.
Sewon Park: I recorded at the University of Hawaii on the lawn. It was very peaceful because nobody was there. You could hear the birds chirp.
Q: Is there something you do that might surprise people who know you only as young classical musicians?
Matin Boulos: I really enjoy skateboarding! And I play jazz as well (as classical). I also do Japanese tea ceremonies and watch a lot of anime and read a lot of manga.
Sewon Park: I’m on the Punahou girls’ varsity air rifle team. I started freshman year for the PE credit, but it is so fun. It’s a sport that requires a lot of concentration, so I guess it can connect to music because they both require a lot of concentration. It helps me concentrate and calm myself down. My favorite position for shooting is standing, although it’s the hardest.
Stephanie Yoshida: A huge majority of my free time is dedicated to astronomical research, which I’ve been doing for the past three years. I’ve dedicated two years of my work to researching white dwarf exoplanets, and through those two years I have found a white dwarf exoplanet candidate which I have entered in numerous competitions and I’ve published (papers on). Essentially I need more telescope time — and telescope time is very expensive — but with (more) telescope time I will be able to confirm whether it is truly a white dwarf exoplanet or a binary (planet).
Q: If you get the telescope time you need to confirm what it is, do you get to name it?
Stephanie Yoshida: It’s already been pre-named by NASA.
Q: Where would you like to be, or what would you like to be doing, 10 years from now?
Matin Boulos: My goal is to leave a mark in Hawaii that will hopefully benefit the next generation of music makers. I see myself building a conservatory in Honolulu and making high-level music training accessible for elementary to high school (students). This dream will take a long time, but I want to get started on it right away.
Stephanie Yoshida: I would like to have obtained my Ph.D. in astrophysics and possibly continue on in hopes of completing a postdoctoral fellowship. My No. 1 goal is to continue research and “do good science” every day.
Emi Horii: I would like to pursue a degree in international relations or political science in college and become a cultural diplomat.
Sewon Park: I would like to be busy, happy and successful with work — hopefully as a primary care physician while living alone in a studio apartment in NYC.
Reach John Berger at firstname.lastname@example.org.