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Fit as a Fiddle: Junior selected for national orchestra

Practice makes perfect: Junior Nichole Lee sits with her viola. Spending three hours a day practicing, Lee has built a strong dedication to her music.

By Renato DiStefano, Staff Reporter

The long hours spent practicing music are paying off for junior Nichole Lee. An accomplished musician, Lee said she found success as a nationally-recognized viola player.

Lee was selected to be a part of the 2019 National Youth Orchestra 2 (NYO2) in February, a prestigious orchestral ensemble that accepts talented musicians ages 14 through 17 from all over the country. During the summer, she will attend an intensive three-week program that aims to improve student musicians’ abilities through training and performance opportunities.

Lee, a violist since she was 13, auditioned for NYO2 in late 2018 by submitting recordings of herself playing several orchestral excerpts, scales and solo pieces. Lee also wrote an essay and submitted a video essay where she answered questions about herself and provided two teacher recommendations.

“The auditioning process was very stressful but totally worth it,” Lee said. “Because the acceptance rate is very low and very competitive, not even one mistake could be made. I practiced around three hours everyday and I am very glad I put the effort into my application.”

No Strings Attached: Junior Nichole Lee practices her viola in orchestra. Although she plays viola now, she originally played violin before switching.

Lee didn’t always play the viola.

“I started the violin in second grade, and in eighth grade I switched (to the viola),” Lee said. “I have a twin. She plays the violin, and I have an older sister. She plays the cello. So we were like, ‘Oh we could probably make a cool (group) if one of us switched,’ so I changed to viola.’”

Lee’s twin, Allison Lee, is also involved with the ’Stoga music program, while her older sister Jennifer Lee now attends Cornell University after graduating in 2018. The three siblings practice their respective instruments together, and Nichole Lee uses this time to further practice for the various orchestras that she is a part of, especially NYO2.

“It’s like an art. It’s kind of fun to make your own music and make music your own,” Nichole Lee said.

This year, the NYO2 program will take place from July 10-31, where selected musicians are given the opportunity to work with top players from various American orchestras and conservatories.

This program takes place at Purchase College, State University of New York (SUNY) in the summer before NYO2’s performances. Later in 2019, Lee will travel with the orchestra to Miami Beach along with conductor Carlos Miguel Pietro to perform at the New World Center in Miami, as well as at Carnegie Hall in New York.

Lee also serves as a member of the Philadelphia Youth Orchestra, as well as the National Association for Music Education (NAfME) and All Eastern Orchestra, two prestigious orchestras that require auditions.

“It’s really about enjoying the music and not just listening to your own (instrument) part. It’s fun to see how your part fits in and complements other parts and getting to know other musicians,” Lee said.

Lee wishes to continue with music in the future, and plans to audition for NYO2 again next year. She credits her time spent with orchestras as a source of tremendous inspiration and growth, preparing her for a potential career in music.

“I believe that working under world class musicians and other great musicians from all over the United States will expose me to new perspectives of music,” Lee said. “I think NYO2 can open more doors for me to be a part of other great opportunities.”

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