Brainerd South Campus freshman Rebecca Yeh went from playing her first song, "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star," on the violin at age 4 to playing four respected pieces that earned her a spot to play at a national violin solo competition.
Yeh was named a finalist in the Music Teachers National Association competition that will be held Friday in Denver.
Yeh has had many opportunities in her 10 years of playing the violin. For the past three years, she was honored as a mid-level all-state first-stand violinist and she played in the all-conference orchestra. Yeh also has performed three years in the state solo competition, has been a member of the Brainerd Chamber Orchestra since fourth grade, has been a soloist with the BHS choirs; and has performed in string quartets and trios.
Brainerd South Campus freshman Rebecca Yeh played her violin Monday in Chamber Orchestra. Brainerd Dispatch/Jennifer Stockinger
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For Yeh's accomplishments, she was named Fine Arts Student of the Week.
Following is a question-and-answer session with Yeh.
Why did you choose the violin?
"My older brother played the violin and my parents gave me a choice of a stringed instrument. They like classical music. I don't remember why I chose the violin, but it was pretty and I liked the sound. My first song sounded good to me, but I'm sure it was pretty bad."
Does anyone else in your family play a stringed instrument?
"All my siblings play one. My oldest brother, who is 19, plays the violin and my other brother, 17, plays the cello, and my 12-year-old sister plays the violin. We're a musical family. We play at weddings and during spring break we played a recital at my grandpa's assisted-living place. We've done a few recitals at nursing homes and assisted living. I'm the most serious of the four."
Was it tough learning how to play it at such a young age?
"It was hard at first to play and get any tune because there were so many things to watch to make sure I'd get it right. But once I learned that, it was pretty easy."
What is it about the violin that has kept you playing it for all these years?
"I could tell I had talent and I really liked the way I played it. It's a way for me to express myself. I love the variety in the color of songs you get with the violin. It's fun to play."
When did you become more serious about playing the violin?
Art focus: Brainerd High School Chamber Orchestra.
Favorite subjects: Spanish and science.
Most memorable fine arts achievement: Being named a finalist in the Music Teachers National Association competition.
Artist most admired: Itzhak Perlman.
Favorite movies: The "Lord of the Rings" movies.
Favorite book: "Where the Red Fern Grows" by Wilson Rawls.
Favorite song: Sibelius Concerto.
Favorite food: Spaghetti.
Parents: Timothy and Kathleen Yeh of Nisswa.
"Four years ago. That is when I began taking private lessons from Sally O'Reilly, a professor at the University of Minnesota. She took me back to the basic skills, like bowing techniques, scales and the technical skills. She wanted to make sure my foundation was perfect. I had to do some work on my bow grip. It was a big change taking private lessons. She expected a lot from me."
Are O'Reilly's and (BHS orchestra director) Grant Wilcox's teaching styles different?
"She's very direct and she picks out every little detail. She looks at what you can do and really explores the music. She doesn't skim over it. She picked out the set of music for the competition that she thought I'd be good at.
"Grant is easy to learn from. You can tell he loves what he does and it has had an effect on me. It has made me more passionate about it, which is good because if you don't have passion you won't get far."
What pieces will you be playing for the national competition?
"I'll be doing solos by Bach, Samuel Barber, Edward Lalo and William Kroll. It'll be a 20-minute program. I really like the music. I started working on the first piece a year ago and gradually I learned the other music."
Tell me about the competition. And are you nervous?
"I qualified after competing at the state level three months ago and the regional level, which involved eight states, about two months ago. The national competition is the furthest I've ever gotten. I'm not sure what to expect at this level. I plan to do my best, and no matter how I do I'll be pleased because I know I did my best. Competing at this level is such a big opportunity for me to take advantage of. I plan to work hard all week to prepare for it, to perfect whatever I can."
How often do you practice?
"Well, I've been involved in a lot of competitions and I practice the same all year round. On weekdays, I practice two hours by myself and on weekends I spend four hours each day."
Do you ever miss doing other things you enjoy?
"Once in a while I'll think about it. If I wasn't playing the violin I'd have so much free time, but I've been given so many opportunities with the violin that I can't picture myself without it. My hard work has paid off and I'm learning a lot of life lessons."
What life lessons have you learned?
"That you can't be great without sacrifices. I've also learned about dedication and patience."
Do you have other interests?
"I'm on the cross country and track teams here, so I have other responsibilities. I keep my schedule busy. I also teach violin in Brainerd Community Education's program, Learn to Play in the Orchestra. I've done that for the past three years."
Do you enjoy teaching violin?
"Yes. It's fun to see the kids who want to play the violin. It's nice to teach them what I've learned. I've had about five students on and off. The youngest was 5 and oldest one is in their 50s. The five-year-olds are so anxious to play."
Adam Lenneman, senior, Brainonian: The Brainonian adviser said, "Adam has been working quietly behind the scenes for yearbook. He has been scanning and touching-up hundreds of senior portraits and designing business ads for our sponsors. He's quite accomplished at Photoshop."
Steve Meyer, junior, mock trial: The mock trial adviser said, "Steve played a witness on the mock trial team. The team vote gave Steve the Most Committed award for his hard work and dedication. He was a team member who could always be counted on to support everyone."
JENNIFER STOCKINGER may be reached at email@example.com or 855-5851.
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