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Brian Hong

Out to Work Day: A Day with a Professional Musician

April 26, 2008 at 2:05 AM

This is my first post on in about 2 months, I would say. Feedback would be appreciated.


Whew! I’m still recovering from an exciting day. Yesterday was “Out to Work Day” at my school, and my violin teacher took me with her! It is required that on April 24th, Robinson Secondary School’s 8th graders are to think of a job that they like, find someone who does that job, and “shadow” them for the duration of that day, while filling out questions in a packet. On the day that I heard about this opportunity (about a month ago), I knew exactly whom I would ask: my violin teacher, June Huang.

Mrs. Huang is the sweetest person any of you could ever meet. And that shows in her teaching. She cannot tell anyone bluntly, “You’re playing it too loud”. She would rather say something like “Brian, I realized that you are playing this phrase much more boldly than the phrase before it. Do you really want to do that?” In this way she makes me think about my choices in how I want the music to be played, while saying it in a friendly matter. In my own humble opinion, this is an example of a fine, experienced teacher.

Okay, back to the story. The day started with a lesson at 7:00 in the morning, with my brother, Andrew. Or, rather, it should have started, but it was cancelled due to my sibling being ill. I just shrugged and still wrote it on my “Out to Work Day Timeline”.

So, instead of going to Andrew’s lesson, I slept in till 6:30 AM! That’s a first. Usually I wake up like 5:00 or 5:30 to walk my beagle, Lily. This time, I had lots of time to take her around my entire neighborhood. I then showed bright and early at my teacher’s house, at 8:30. We immediately left with our concert clothes and instruments (I’ll tell you what they were for later).

We pulled up at a gym for…….a Pilates class! Whoopee! My teacher was forcing me to “find my inner equilibrium” with her. She then explained that lots of violinists need to balance their body in some way, often by means of stretching. We went into a room filled with machines called “Allegros”. That was the only thing I liked about the place. I was thrown into backbreaking exercises that I could not possibly do. I am not a flexible guy, folks. It discouraged me even further to notice that Mrs. Huang, on a machine next to me, was executing her moves with perfect balance and “equilibrium”.

After an hour of grueling Pilates, we left for Kent Gardens Elementary, where one of my teacher’s many orchestras, an orchestra called the Amadeus Orchestra, was to rehearse and play a concert. The Amadeus is a very good orchestra. The first violins are comprised of the well-known Army Orchestra, and the second violins are comprised of the best violinists in Northern Virginia and DC as well as the violists and cellists. The winds and brass are from the National Symphony and other well known venues, as is the percussionist, Doug Wallace.

Before we could go to the school, however, we needed food. Concert violinists need fuel to survive, fuel that comes in the form of Subway. My teacher and I argued about who would buy each other food, and she ended up secretly buying my sub (A foot-long chicken and bacon ranch, along with a Coke Zero) before it was even done being made. We grabbed our bags and drove to the school.

Scott Wood, a great conductor in the area who conducts the Amadeus, along with the contractor, Larry, kindly allowed me to perform with the orchestra. They set up a chair and stand in the back of the seconds, and gave me *gasp!* original music! Of course, I had to copy bowings, but it was worth it. Before we started, I had the great pleasure of meeting my first violin teacher, Anne Marie Patterson, whom I studied with 8 years ago! I also had the honor of meeting my jolly old Suzuki group lessons coach, Mary Anne Tortolano. I was already elated about this, but was looking forward to playing. When Mr. Woods started the rehearsal, I realized that the musicians were so great that they already played very musically, as well as perfectly. I was also surprised to learn that the players were sightreading. They played so well that Mr. Wood only had to mention small things such as dynamics. The music that we performed included complicated French music (especially for woodwinds) such as Gabriel Fauré’s Pelléas et Mélisande, Ravel’s Le Tombeau de Couperin, Bizet’s First Symphony, and a Sarabande by Claude Debussy. They were all gorgeous pieces, played by an orchestra that could sightread far better than my youth orchestra could perform after practicing hours and hours.

After we rehearsed and ate lunch (I love Subway), we performed for a full assembly of little elementary schoolers. The concert started with us playing an easy string orchestra version of themes from Pirates of the Caribbean with the Kent Gardens School Orchestra. We then performed our French pieces. Surprisingly, the little kids were really quiet. They clapped enthusiastically and cheered like crazy. I was surprised that they would love classical music this much. In my opinion, it is very important for skilled musicians to try to turn on the younger generation to classical music like the orchestra does. I recently went to my first Guarneri Quartet concert where they played Beethoven’s Harp and Op. 130 with the Grosse Fugue as the ending. The concert hall was full to the brim with…..senior citizens. Not that there is anything wrong with that, but it seems like less and less younger people like classical music lately.

Wow, I keep getting sidetracked! Well, the story is almost over. After the concert, I packed up and left with Mrs. Huang for her car. We had to go fast in order to beat the traffic. As we were driving back to her house, I finished my packet of questions for school, which included some questions like “What types of science do you need for this job?” and “What kinds of math do you need for this job, and where did you learn them?” They were really hard to answer, because they weren’t really creative arts friendly questions.

All in all, it was a really great day. I was finally able to see the world of a professional musician through my own eyes. And, it was completely different than I thought. It is much more tiring and stressful. However, it has not stopped me from wanting to be a violinist when I grow up. I find the life to be very rewarding and fun, especially when you play with other musicians who have just as high of a standard as you do. I don’t think that I will ever have a day like this as an adolescent again, and, if I do, I will write about it.

From Royce Faina
Posted on April 26, 2008 at 2:08 AM
Brian, I envy you! Loved your blogg!
From K Nietz
Posted on April 26, 2008 at 3:56 AM
Indeed, a great blog. I enjoyed reading it and being a part of your special day.
From Drew Lecher
Posted on April 26, 2008 at 4:25 AM

What a wonderful experience for you and you wrote so well about it.

Now practice on the highest level you can imagine and make the sounds you heard the top pros make.

All the best,

From Jon O'Brien
Posted on April 26, 2008 at 5:44 AM
Faure's Pelleas et Melisande is a great little suite. A lot of nice music in it, and magical. Nice blog, too!
From Rick Floress
Posted on April 26, 2008 at 11:34 AM

Great job! Very well written and interesting!

From Louise Pallet
Posted on April 26, 2008 at 12:09 PM
Brian what a wonderful day and such a lovely teacher. you are very lucky . Good luck for the future. I will look for your name one day!
From Patricia Baser
Posted on April 26, 2008 at 2:34 PM
It's nice to see a student who is thinking purposefully about the future!
From Anne Akiko Meyers
Posted on April 26, 2008 at 3:20 PM
Very nice story Brian! I loved your enthusiasm and maybe one of these days, you can follow around a solo concert violinist. I wonder how you would find that! It is wonderful that your teacher stressed stretching, exercise and diet. Keep up the good work!
From Rosalind Porter
Posted on April 26, 2008 at 4:19 PM
Brilliant article! Well done - I did enjoy reading about your day and can imagine it was an exciting experience for you too. You make some great points about the importance of young people hearing classical music. Hope you get an "A" for your report!
From Lori Higgins
Posted on April 26, 2008 at 5:38 PM
What a fun day for you! You write very well. You also bring up a good point about bringing concert level music, live, to youngsters. There are many areas in the US where there is very little to no musical education in elemetary school. I find that sad. Maybe when you are grown up you can do something about that!
From Brian Hong
Posted on April 27, 2008 at 7:29 PM
Wow, thanks, everyone! I appreciate your comments.

Mrs. Meyers-I am awed that you commented on my blog. I always thought that famous soloists used this sight to write their own violin blogs and to post their own videos, but you have shown that you too are part of this community. Thank you very much!


P.S. Can I shadow you someday? :)

From Emily Grossman
Posted on April 28, 2008 at 1:04 AM
I'm glad you got to do that. When I was your age I had no idea what being a musician was all about. I remember being told that they made next to nothing and that I would probably starve to death if I decided to become one. Now you know it's not true; we eat at Subway!

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