Initially put into violin classes by her dad at the age of 5, Olivia Hsu has diligently attended her violin lessons ever since. Over the years, she has engrossed a collection of accomplishments. Most recently, Hsu was given the rare opportunity to perform a solo concerto with the Castro Valley Orchestra.
“The CV Orchestra is a community orchestra comprised of retired professional musicians, current professionals, musicians who’ve changed careers, and the general community members who play at an advanced level,” described James Choi, Hsu’s private violin teacher since the eighth grade.
Only a handful of orchestras in the Bay Area offer the chance for students to play a solo with them, resulting in a highly competitive playing field. With small margins of being selected, performing with an orchestra is a rare opportunity for any musician, let alone a high schooler.
To prepare for her performance, Hsu rehearsed the piece for several months, simultaneously practicing it for several other violin competitions. Throughout the weeks leading up, she took part in rehearsals with the CV Orchestra and worked on fine-tuning the music before the final show.
“I felt happy and grateful that I was able to showcase my hard work and be able to perform in front of my family and friends. I’ve been wanting to perform for my grandparents for a while; this performance gave me the opportunity to do so,” stated Hsu about her final performance.
As a teacher, Choi described how before any performance, he helps his students strengthen their mental fortitude, chip away at technical imperfections, and take part in practice concerts to prepare. However, in the case of Hsu, he did not feel the need to become as caught up in her preparation process.
“By now though, Olivia has already performed solo concertos with orchestra a few times so I didn’t feel the need to get too involved with this particular performance. She knew what she had to do.”
However, Hsu’s performance with the CV Orchestra was only a fraction of her accomplishments this past year. After being selected as a first-place winner of the American Protégé International Music Talent Competition, Hsu will be solo performing the Saint Saens Violin Concerto No. 3 at Carnegie Hall this coming summer. She will also be traveling throughout Europe (specifically Prague, Vienna, and Budapest) to perform with the Oakland Symphony Youth Orchestra (OSYO) as a part of their summer tour.
In her free time, Hsu helps teach violin to kids over Zoom through a nonprofit organization she helped launch called Melody Connects. Choi and his students founded a “mentorship program” to partner with Title 1 schools across the nation to provide free weekly Zoom lessons to their students.
“I believe there is always room for improvement in anything you do. Self-improvement is what inspires me to continue playing the violin. Even though I have been playing the violin for 12 years now, I learn something new all the time,” expressed Hsu. “This [teaching students] inspires me to continue improving my violin skills so that I can share my knowledge with young musicians.”
After high school, Hsu plans to attend Cal Poly San Luis Obispo (SLO) as a biochemistry major. While not majoring in music, she hopes to continue her passion for violin by joining the Cal Poly SLO Symphony Orchestra or possibly a string ensemble group.
Nevertheless, Hsu has no plans for her violin to leave her side as she takes on New York, Europe, and Cal Poly SLO later this year.