Every year, hundreds of young musicians from Southern California audition to be a part of the Pacific Symphony Youth Ensembles programs. While we often hear their musical talent at the Youth Ensembles concerts, we often lose track of the program’s alumni as they graduate and move all across the country to pursue work and higher education.
Luckily, we recently caught up with one of our alumni, Danielle Liu, and heard her reflect on her experience with PSYE. She just finished her first year at Chapman University, pursuing a double major in Health Sciences and Violin Performance. Outside of school, she teaches violin and piano while helping PSYE as their Youth Quartet Coordinator! As a former PSYE participant, she spent 3 years in Santiago Strings and 4 years in the Youth Orchestra. On top of that, she’s a 2-time PSYO Concerto Competition winner!
To start off, do you have any vivid memories from your time in the Youth Ensembles?
Ah, there’s so many… One memorable experience was when PSYO spent an afternoon on the Great Wall of China during our 2016 tour. You might envision an orchestra of high school students traipsing the Wall, sharing umbrellas, wearing drenched rain ponchos, hardly able to see two feet in front of them because of the water pouring from the sky. It was truly a bonding yet exhausting experience… I think we all ate and slept a lot that night!
How has your past involvement with the Youth Ensembles and their directors shaped your personal and/or musical self?
It taught me to put diligence and dedication to everything I do, from my studies to my music, while also understanding the importance of representing myself with professionalism and respect.
[Pacific Symphony Santiago Strings Music Director] Mrs. Kroesen inspired her students to be leaders, no matter where they sat in the orchestra. Maestro Gutierrez treated us as professionals, pushing us beyond our musical potential. [Pacific Symphony Youth Orchestra Music Director] Maestro Kalia brought zeal and passion to the orchestra, always exploring a wide range of sound colors. When we had the opportunity to work with Maestro St.Clair, he turned the orchestra upside-down in the best way possible and showed us what it meant to make intimate music together. I’m forever grateful for all they’ve taught me.
Looking back, could you have ever imagined to be where you are today?
I graduated from the Youth Ensembles only a little over a year ago, but I couldn’t have imagined what life now would be like when I was a Youth Ensembles member. Now at Chapman as a double major, I am often in school all day. My mom drives me to school early in the morning, and I bounce from class to research to rehearsals to labs. Almost every day of the week, I don’t get home until 11 p.m., however, I’m thrilled that I have the opportunity to study and pursue both of my passions.
Do you have any words of wisdom for the students that are currently in the Ensembles?
Maestro Gutierrez, the former director of PSYO, often said to us, “Enjoy the process.” A performance is the culmination of hours of practice and rehearsal, and it’s important to value the entire process from the first downbeat to the finishing note. This can apply to almost anything in life. We should think back to, “Why are you doing what you are doing?” Regardless, what’s most important is living with joy, love, and compassion. Such things make life a lot sweeter!
This article was written by Alison Huh, one of Pacific Symphony’s Marketing & PR interns. Alison will be a sophomore at University of California, Berkeley, where she studies English. She was formerly a member of Pacific Symphony’s Youth Orchestra, playing flute.