Lauren Yoon was in third grade when she first picked up a violin at a music store.
“I didn’t know much about the violin,” Yoon recalled. “It was such a pretty instrument. I asked them to play it for me. It played such a pretty sound.”
Now 13, the eighth-grader at Hammond Middle School has won great acclaim for her own touch with the stringed instrument.
In January, she was named the winner in Columbia Orchestra’s 2019 Young Artist Competition Junior String Division, giving her the opportunity to perform with the group at its spring concert.
She is now a finalist in the Fairfax County orchestra’s competition, where she will compete in June.
“She’s a hard worker who also has talent aplenty,” said Ronald Mutchnik, her violin teacher, who is also the conductor of the Howard County Concert Odysessy. “She takes to it like a fish to water. She rises to the challenge.”
If she were to get technical, Yoon admits she is “good at manipulating her vibrations” and has good flexibility in her wrist. Keeping it simple, she credits hard work and a joy of music for her success.
“I practice every day,” Yoon said. “If I practice, it comes easy to me.”
While a musician must first learn a piece by going over each measure of music, the musician must then get comfortable with the piece, Mutchnik said.
“You want many chances to perform it,” Mutchnik said. “Once you get several performances under your belt, you’ve worked out all the nerves and feel confident.”
Yoon’s competition piece, Maurice Ravel’s “Tzigane,” has kept her busy all year.
“For the young artists competition, she played a piece that is notoriously difficult,” Mutchnik said. “She won.”
“I like to challenge myself,” Yoon said. “I am not nervous.”
As a young child, Yoon suffered a severe case of pneumonia that required surgery and resulted in damage to her left lung, her mother, Julie Yoon, said. That didn’t prevent her daughter from becoming a competitive swimmer, qualifying for the Junior Olympics in the backstroke.
“Even with one lung not working [properly], she made it,” Julie said. “She still has the feeling she can do it. She wants to win. That helps her with the violin, too.”
With only so many hours in a day, Yoon chose her violin over swimming. After school, she practices and does homework. As to the future, she is interested in graphic design and perhaps a career in music.
“I like to put my mind in the artistic world,” Yoon said.
Music is part of her family life, as her mother plays piano and her brother plays the viola.
“If you feel lonely, music can be friendly,” Yoon said. “You don’t have to major in music to enjoy it.”
Mutchnik cannot predict where Yoon’s musical career will go, though he plans to keep challenging her along the way.
“It is a difficult profession to go into,” Mutchnik said. “It is every teacher’s responsibility and duty to install a love of music. I encourage them to keep it going regardless where it takes them.”
Yoon knows that music will always be important in her life.
“Whenever I’m feeling stressed about anything, I go to music,” Yoon said. “It makes me feel important. I feel happy and free.”