Playing up to high expectations


Photo Courtesy of Emily Yang

Junior Emily Yang was the concertmaster last year for the All-Southern California Honor Symphony Orchestra.

There was a roar of applause as Emily Yang strode across the stage, past her usual chair in the orchestra, to stand in the front of the ensemble as a soloist. As the orchestra began the first few notes of the piece, Yang raised her bow to her violin for her solo performance as the 2018 Claremont Young Musicians Orchestra Concerto Competition winner.

The Diamond Bar High School junior has always been immersed in music as her mother, Dr. Amanda Yang, teaches violin and piano. In Emily’s freshman year of high school, she started attending  the Colburn School in Los Angeles to study with Samuel Fischer, a professional violinist who studied at The Juilliard School in New York City and serves as the concertmaster of the Riverside County Philharmonic. At Colburn, Yang became more serious about the instrument because of Fischer’s high expectations.

“Music has been in my life forever,” Yang said. “When I first switched to Colburn, [my challenge was] practicing to my teacher’s expectations. Colburn was a big jump for me in my musical career, and it was just telling myself that I had to practice every day to be better.”

After three years of playing with the DBHS Symphony Orchestra, Yang is now the assistant concertmaster.

“[She’s] one of the best [violinist] I’ve had in my 30-year career. She’s incredibly gifted, not just in technical skills, but she understands music at a very deep level,” band director Steve Acciani said. “She just has a type of industriousness that is infectious with the whole orchestra.”

Outside the school orchestra, Yang is also heavily involved in music extracurriculars ranging from competitions to orchestras. In eighth grade, Yang was selected to play for CYMO. While Yang started out in the back rows as a second violinist, she continued practicing over the years and rise through the ranks until she finally became the assistant concertmaster. Last year, Yang auditioned for the 2018 CYMO Concerto Competition as a personal challenge to prove herself.

“I was really shocked, honestly. My stand partner, who is first chair concertmaster, was really good too so I was not expecting to win at all,” Yang said. “After the competition, I went home and I cried because I didn’t know I would win.”

Last year, Yang reached another major milestone in her music journey when she was selected to play as the concertmaster for the All-Southern California Honor Symphony Orchestra.

“In orchestras, just being able to sit in front is really nice compared to sitting in the back because it’s like I’ve gotten so far,” Yang said. “It’s nice to know that I put in so much work and at the end accomplish stuff.”

Yang also won the Junior Chamber Music’s Young Musicians Concerto Competition as a sophomore and played “Barber Violin Concerto” as a soloist with the orchestra.

While Yang initially focused mainly on learning the technicalities of playing the violin, she has now learned to take a step back and tune into the emotions of the pieces she plays.

“During performances, I’m like ‘don’t miss this shift’ and ‘don’t mess up’– that’s what’s going on through my head,” Yang said. “But over time, as I practice more, I get more familiar with the piece. I just enjoy it, be like ‘this is me,’ try to [give more expression] and just enjoy myself with it more.”