MONTVILLE, NJ – Every parent loves to hear their student participate in a music concert, but parents who attended the Montville Township High School winter concert Dec. 11 were treated to a jaw-dropping rendition of Carol of the Bells/God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen with violin soloist Yoo Jin Kang which resulted in a several minute-long standing ovation for the freshman musician.

Kang has been playing the piano since she was three, but picked up the violin in third grade when a friend was also playing that instrument, she recently told TAPinto Montville.

“We played a duet, and it made me want to play the violin, too,” she said.

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She currently takes private lessons and said she practices about three hours a day.

When she was a sixth grader at Lazar Middle School, as concert master she was featured in a Vivaldi arrangement of the Four Seasons.

In seventh grade she came in second place in an international violin competition for young musicians called the Vivo competition, having auditioned in Manhattan, but unfortunately only the first place winner was featured in the resulting concert.

When Kang was in eighth grade, she was honored by the Mayo Performing Arts Center in Morristown as Music Student of the Month for February, 2019. Orchestra teacher Janice Scharf nominated her for being “very dedicated,” and Scharf said that although Kang had at that time only been playing for five years, she played at the level of a college student. Scharf also said that Kang is “very helpful, aiding other players in tuning their instruments and going above and beyond.” (Read more about the award here.)

Current orchestra teacher Andrew Havington agrees.

“She motivates a lot of kids in the class with her friendly personality,” he said.

Choosing the Carol of the Bells/God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen piece is a process that began a year in advance of the Dec. 11 concert, which also featured the chamber choir, men’s ensemble, women’s ensemble and concert choir under the direction of teacher Kristen Markowski, and the symphonic band under the direction of teacher Daniel Pasquale.

“I was looking at publishers’ catalogs, and I found a piece with Matt Riley as the arranger,” Havington said. “There was also a student video that I showed to the students and I was really impressed by the piece. I liked how it sounded and ordered the music.

“We started working on a different piece that had Carol of the Bells mixed kind of jazzy, but it just wasn’t jibing. I try to adjust to the students. So we changed to the Matt Riley piece, had a blind audition for the solo, and Yoo Jin won it.”

Havington admitted that he tries to stay away from having freshmen as soloists, but once students heard Kang play, they were motivated themselves to play better.

“It’s a four-year program – the band, the orchestra, and the choir – and we all have the same high level of expectations [for our students],” he said. “I don’t let up on the kids and we already have three new pieces to work on even though the concert was last week. We support each other, [students and teachers]. We have people like Yoo Jin come in – which is great – you can tell I’m happy about it – and as you can tell, she cares about others and helping others, and she takes her talent and helps inspire people. You can tell music is something she really loves. She inspires people by being kind and helping people. She’s a great player and a good person – it’s a great thing.”

In the future, Kang says music will always be a part of her life, although she is not sure if she will study music or science in college.

“My mom said I was quick to read music as a child, and she plays piano as a hobby,” she said. “Wherever I go, music will always be with me.”

Havington said that the Carol of the Bells piece was difficult and filled with embellishments for the entire orchestra.

To see the video click here:

“They worked hard – it was not an easy part for the orchestra,” he said. “The piece was played in seventh position, which makes the violin parts go very high on the instrument, requiring students to shift up to the top of their instrument where notes are so close together that they cause fingers to overlap to play them in tune. It’s much harder to play. And it’s not just ‘laying down track in the background’ [for Yoo Jin].”

Kang agrees that she is not the star of the show.

“I feel like if I played music alone it wouldn’t be that great,” she said. “It has to be played as a team.”

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