Fervor and Forte: South’s Chamber Ensembles Compete in Fifth Annual Young Musicians Concert Regional


Ryan Chen

Each year, the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center organizes a competition in which students in the tri-state area are invited to compete for the opportunity to perform in the Young Musicians Concert at Lincoln Center’s Alice Tully Hall, a performing arts center in Manhattan. On February 17, the music organization held its Long Island regional concert and competition at South High. The concert was a culmination of hard work from students of thirteen chamber ensembles across seven Long Island high schools.

The concert was held in the auditorium, where ensembles performed chamber music (music performed in groups where each musician is responsible for a specific role) involving instruments ranging from the cello to the viola. Of the thirteen chamber ensembles, three were from South High:

  • Drew Kim (violin) and Dylan Kim (violin) played “Duo concertante in D major” by Louis Spohr
  • Victoria Lin (cello) and Erin Wong (cello) played “Suite for Two Cellos” by David Popper
  • Sidney Wong (violin), Dayoung Yu (violin), Sebastian Lennox (viola), and Jillian Chang (cello) played the “Voces intimae” String Quartet by Jean Sibelius

In November, the music department invited South High students to join in groups and submit a recording that the department would judge. The competition only permits three ensembles from each school, so the department had to be very selective with their decision. “We ultimately selected the three entries that we felt best represented the level needed to potentially be selected for Lincoln Center in January. And since all three of our groups were selected, obviously, they were certainly good enough!” explained Mr. Schwartz. After the music department selected the ensembles, they submitted the audition recordings to the Chamber Music Society, and the groups all practiced rigorously prior to the regional concert in February. 

Although teachers helped steer the groups in the right general direction, it was predominantly the students’ dedication and diligence that led them to success. “Dr. Robinson and I will go in and listen to the groups, and we’ll comment. We discuss certain things, but it’s really about the students making musical decision choices, knowing what is appropriate for Lincoln Center. The students are the ones that do it all,” Mr. Schwartz said. One of the groups—Sidney, Dayoung, Sebastian, and Jillian—played the first movement of the “Voces Intimae” String Quartet by Jean Sibelius. “The piece is characterized by a uniquely beautiful dissonance and emphasized by long unison passages where we communicated visually and through auditory signals to influence the music,” said Sebastian. On stage, the group exquisitely conveyed the 1909 piece’s sonorous yet soothing features.

But, of course, the journey of preparing for the long-anticipated competition did not come without its bumps along the way.  “Our biggest struggle was finding time in our packed schedules to practice together. Leading up to the competition, we had to practice almost every day,” said Sebastian. Through practice, the group also experienced one of the defining aspects of chamber ensemble music: not having a conductor to lead them. “We really had to explore the communication that is integral to playing chamber music. Without it, our coordination would’ve been sloppy, and we would’ve been out of sync,” he said. 

Although the process of preparing for the concert was sometimes strenuous and anxiety-inducing, students felt rewarded by both the experience of the concert and the exhilaration of awaiting results, which will likely be released in April. “The experience was very fun. We were surrounded by music all day, with groups constantly practicing and performing. Though there were certainly some nerves involved, as there is with any performance, we stayed focused on what we could control, and we’re proud of how we performed,” Sebastian concluded.