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Walnut High School | 400 Pierre Rd. Walnut, Calif. 91789

the hoofprint

Walnut High School | 400 Pierre Rd. Walnut, Calif. 91789

the hoofprint

Walnut High School | 400 Pierre Rd. Walnut, Calif. 91789

Musician connects cultures through guzheng and violin

Noya Chen uses her musical talents to remind her of home, amid new surroundings.
Photo by Stephanie Cheng
Junior Noya Chen practices her guzheng, a traditional Chinese plucked instrument at home. “It’s not a matter of liking, I like practicing by myself but I am okay [when] performing in front of other people,” Chen said. “[The guzheng] can have different tunes and are just very versatile. No matter how you play [the guzheng], it sounds good.”

Junior Noya Chen has never been able to have long nails.

A guzheng, a traditional Chinese instrument with 21 strings, requires Chen to play with customized fingerpicks — the closest she’s come to having fancy acrylics. Now that she’s also learning the violin, getting manicures (on her right hand, at least) are even more out of the picture.

But to Chen, plain nails are a small price to pay to continue playing music.

“If I didn’t have music, life would be boring,” she said. “It’s like a way of regulating emotions: When I’m happy, I play happy songs. When I feel down, I play not-so-happy songs.”

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Chen’s two instruments perfectly reflect her two worlds: China and the United States, where she immigrated to in August 2023. At the upcoming Autumn Serenade concert on November 7, Chen will be able to combine the two by performing a guzheng solo with the Concert Orchestra, for which she’s also playing the violin. To Chen, this is a way to remember and share her culture with her new environment.

“For a lot of Chinese music, the melody seems pretty simple. But once you listen closely, there are all these hidden emotions and listening to it feels very comfortable,” she said.

Chen has been playing the guzheng for almost 10 years, but it has not always been a positive experience. She’s had thoughts of quitting and even periods in which she didn’t touch her instrument. But in the end, she always started again.

“Sometimes when there [are] things I don’t understand or can’t figure out how to play, I get really annoyed. It’s tiring,” Chen said. “But when I get past it, I feel proud from the bottom of my heart.”

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Cathy Li, Print editor-in-chief
Hi everyone, my name is Cathy Li and I’m in the 12th grade, serving as your Print editor-in-chief. Though I blame Pubs for my irrationally strong hatred of Oxford commas and at least 23% of my stress-induced breakouts, I wouldn’t trade journalism for the world. I’m glad to have found an avenue in which my natural nosiness is celebrated.
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