Riding shotgun in her mom’s car, senior and musician Hannah Thai received a long-awaited announcement.
“You got an email,” Thai recalled her mom saying. They were on their way to get boba–a weekly tradition–on a brisk day in October. Thai had anxiously been waiting for a response from the world-renowned Honors Performance Series (HPS) Program, to see if she was accepted to their Symphony Orchestra as a violinist.
Back in junior year, Thai heard about the program through her violin teacher. “I first applied but I got rejected,” she said.
All that changed when her mom broke the news. She had gotten into Carnegie Hall.
Thai was ecstatic. “I was like, that’s insane! And then it was kind of like a mini celebration,” she said.
From there, Thai spent Jan. 31 to Feb. 5 in New York City, exploring Times Square, touring colleges, watching Broadway shows, and, of course, practicing her violin in seven-hour-long rehearsals in preparation for her symphony’s performance at Carnegie Hall.
While an excellent musician, Thai felt unprepared, which she noted as “what every musician feels like.”
“I wish I had practiced the music more because there’s no such thing as being too prepared,” she said. “The seven-hour rehearsals…[were] the hardest part of everything. I left New York more sleep deprived than I came.”
Luckily, Thai was surrounded by a supportive community of musicians. “I didn’t find anyone to be competitive with because everyone’s just here for the music which was really relieving,” she said.
Thai pointed out how in classical music, everyone seems to always be entering a competition, however big or small it is. “It’s just natural for every musician to have those struggles, right? Because you work hard to get that chair, to get that prize. But once you’re actually in the program, the competition is just gone. You’re just there to be people, to be friends, and to have the chance to play music.”
Thai recalled what it felt like performing at Carnegie Hall. “It was a phenomenal experience…at first I couldn’t process it,” she said. “But then when I was playing, I think being surrounded by people and hearing the echoing throughout the hall really got to me. I was just like, ‘I’m really grateful for this moment and I’m really happy that I worked hard to get here’… It was something that I will always cherish.”
Thai noted, however, that the highlight of her trip was just being surrounded by fellow musicians and music nerds coming from places as far as China. “I had four roommates, and they were all super sweet,” she said. “We named ourselves the ‘Shosty Baes’ in honor of Shostakovich because that was one of our pieces.”
Although Thai is planning on pursuing a career in the medical field, she knows that music will always be a part of her life and that she’ll keep finding new communities to be a part of.
“…Stepping out of your boundaries and exploring opportunities is one of the best things you can do for yourself,” she said.
One thing, however, Thai recognized, was how to balance ambitious goals with daily practices. “I think being consistent in your goals is important, but remembering to validate your successes along the way is too,” she said. “For me, Carnegie Hall wasn’t in my head. It was before like a really big thing, but now it’s just one accomplishment that’s just as important as my other ones.”
“Remember to be proud of yourself and what you accomplish, because every small thing leads up to something bigger,” she continued. “Those small wins. Those are just as important to me.”