Not just fiddling about: Lee finds success as violinist


Haley Kish

Sophomore Hannah Lee studies sheet music for an upcoming performance. A talented violinist, Lee plays in both NC’s chamber orchestra and the Georgia Youth Symphony Orchestra (GYSO). “Don’t give up, even though you feel like it’s really hard. Just keep practicing, and your hard work will pay off,” Lee said.

Harrison Glaze, Blogs Editor

The modern violin first appeared in Renaissance Italy, possibly around 1530. Derived largely from Byzantine and Arab influences, the instrument went on to become a staple of Western classical music, spreading from Italy throughout Europe and eventually the world. It has since come to form a cornerstone of styles as diverse as Russian classical music, Irish folk, and American country; it also now serves as the instrument of choice for one talented Warrior, sophomore Hannah Lee.

“I started playing violin when I was in third grade. At first, I was really into the beauty of the instrument, but then as I grew up I really enjoyed the sound, and now I love music so much. I started lessons halfway through third grade, and then I auditioned for GYSO, which is the Georgia Youth Symphony Orchestra, in fourth grade. That was the first time I’ve really played in an orchestra, and that really got me into music. I started practicing a lot more after I joined GYSO,” Lee said.

From the start, then, Lee sought out opportunities to grow her musical career. Now, in her eighth year as part of GYSO, she continues to maintain involvement with the group. Simultaneously, she also began to pursue music within a school context as soon as the chance became available.

“In sixth grade and all throughout middle school, I did the all-state orchestra, and then I did honor orchestra as well,” Lee said.

Typically, students arriving at NC begin by playing in the specially designated freshman orchestra. Lee, though, took a different route. Drawing on her years of experience as a violinist, she earned herself a place in NC’s chamber orchestra—the most prestigious orchestra group at the school—while still a high school freshman.

“In eighth grade, I emailed [NC orchestra director] Dr. K, and I asked her if I could audition for chamber, and she was like, ‘Sure! Just send a recording of yourself playing scales and a couple of excerpts from the all-state orchestra for middle school.’ And so I auditioned,” Lee said.

Since becoming a Warrior, Lee continues to challenge herself to grow as a musician.

“My sight reading has gotten so much better, and I was chosen as concertmaster for the all-state orchestra,” Lee said.

The concertmaster, who leads an orchestra’s first-violin section, serves as the leader of the orchestra’s players as a whole and a musical intermediary between musicians and the conductor. The position’s holder thus takes on the hefty—and daunting—responsibility of ensuring an entire orchestra’s success.

“[The promotion] happened this year, a month ago. I was not expecting it at all. The auditions were actually delayed three hours, so I was there for like four hours. The excerpts went pretty well, but the sight reading was really hard,” Lee said.

Earlier this spring, Lee took up the new position, spending days performing at all-state with fellow student musicians from orchestras throughout the state.

“It was really fun getting to know different people from different schools all over Georgia, and it really helped me increase my leadership skills and strengthen my cueing and everything,” Lee said.

An enthusiast of the Russian Romantic composer Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, Lee cites his works as among her favorite pieces to perform, along with Austrian composer Franz von Suppé’s comic operetta The Poet and the Peasant. She says that her fellow musicians serve as a constant source of inspiration.

“I love meeting other musicians from around Georgia who share my passion of music. That really motivates me to practice a lot for my auditions so that I can do my best and hopefully get in,” Lee said.