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Playing by heart

There are those who love what they do, but don’t have the skill for it. There are those who have the skill, but don’t love it.

Sophomore Jo Ann Sun is the rare musician who is able to truly love and master what she does at the same time. Her technique and dedication for the violin won her first place on Sunday, Feb. 22 in the annual Vocalists, Orchestral Instrumentalists, Chamber Groups and Ensembles (VOCE) competition, sponsored by Music Teachers’ Association of California (MTAC).

“I couldn’t believe [I won] because I thought I could only get third or fourth place or maybe not even place at all. I was really surprised,” Sun said. “But compared to a lot of my fellow competitors and my teacher’s other students that also play, I kind of put in more passion than a lot of people.”

Sun practices the violin for about 1-2 hours daily and prepared for VOCE by practicing for six hours the day before the competition. On the day of the competition, Sun woke up at 7 a.m. and rehearsed for four hours, then another hour right before the performance.

“On the day of the competition, I was pretty relaxed. I’m kind of used to the setting,” Sun said. “I think it’s good to showcase what you have been doing over the past year. If you just play violin by yourself and for yourself at home, that’s okay, but it’s good to get experience playing outside too, so you don’t get nervous in front of people.”

Sun has been playing the violin for almost eight years at private lessons that her mom made her take. She was also influenced by her brother and cousins who also played the instrument. Since Sun was originally forced to begin playing the violin, preparing for her first competition sparked her passion for the violin.

“I was really nervous for my first competition. But then during my lesson, I realized I really wanted to go to the competition even though I was really scared. I’m usually not a very confident person, but they don’t know that so when I go up on the stage I just fake it until I make it,” Sun said. “It was more enjoyable for some reason because I would be playing so that other people could listen.”

Unlike most musicians, Sun watches movies that embody the song before the performance, like “Schindler’s List” and “Les Misérables,” so that she can draw from those memories on stage. Songs she listens to prior to her performance include recordings from Michael Rabin, a famed 20th century violinist.

“When I am on stage, I try to remember the parts of the movie that are applicable for the song,” Sun said. “But when I mess up, I don’t think about the movies. I pause my emotions and try to focus on the technique more.”

Sun does not seek to play the violin professionally, but rather as a hobby and a way to pass time for when she is older. Sun’s devoted passion for the violin plays a huge role in her desire to keep going, even as just a recreation.

“At first it was something I was forced to do but over the years I’ve really started to love it,” Sun said. “[The violin] is something that you can express yourself with, and when you get older you can still play the violin. Some people wish that they could be musical but they never learned how to, so I’m glad that I have that.”

By Olivia Chiang, Staff writer


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