With in-person classes canceled, sophomores Abigail Ko, Natsume Wu continue to train as violin soloists at Indiana University (IU) pre-college String Academy program


Abigail Ko

A WHOLE NEW EXPERIENCE: Sophomore Abigail Ko practices at the IU Jacobs School of Music as a part of the pre-college String Academy program. Ko said there is nothing like the program in Indiana and it’s the best she has experienced.

Christian Ledbetter

Abigail Ko

When did you first play violin?

“I think I was 5 or 6 and my friend’s mom was a violin teacher and I was at that friend’s house. I saw a girl come in and she was playing having her lesson and I wanted to play. That’s how I started.”

What are the classes that you take at IU like? 

“It happens every Saturday on the weekends because a lot of the kids come from outside of Bloomington, so we all have to drive hours to get there. We (usually have) two-hour rehearsals, two-hour master class where we play for each other and we get feedback from my teacher. They also have theory classes there, depending on how advanced you are; there are different levels to them. Some people also get lessons on Saturday.”

How much would you say you’ve advanced as a musician since taking these classes?

“I started in, I think it was around fourth grade. I think I’ve come a pretty long way just because there is nothing (else) like IU in Indiana. I think It’s probably the best experience that I’ve got.”

What motivates you to continue learning and playing violin?

“I love music so much. It (has) had such a great impact on me. Every time we’ve had guests come in and just watching them is so inspiring and I think that motivates me to keep going.”

Where do you hope to go with your skills in violin?

“If I don’t go into music, (then) I just think I’ll have something I can share with people.”

With the impacts of COVID-19, you have had to switch to online classes. How has your experience been with your online classes?

“It was definitely a unique experience. At first we had a lot of difficulty with the sound because a lot of built-in microphones in computers are designed for talking rather than instruments. My teacher commented that it sounded like I was underwater. All of the students have to go buy external microphones now.”

Do you think there is any benefit to having lessons online?

“The only good thing about online lessons that I can think of is not having to drive an hour and a half to Bloomington. But in reality, online lessons can’t really compare to the value of in person lessons.

Natsume Wu

Natsume Wu
Sophomore Natsume Wu peforms in the 2019 Side by Side Concert with Carmel Symphony Orchestra. Wu said she feels she has grown a lot as a performer since starting the IU program.

When did you first play violin?

“Around when I was 5. My mom actually started taking lessons for fun and I remember I would always beg her, ‘Can I have lessons: and she wouldn’t let me have lessons until I was 5 and finally she conceded, and so I started taking lessons.”

What are the classes that you take at IU like? 

“I go every Saturday; I have a two-hour rehearsal. We have a group that plays together in an ensemble. After that we have a two-hour master class where we listen to other people playing and listen to our teacher help them with whatever they need to work on and then we have a theory class for music theory and then a lesson with an assistant teacher and then a lesson with my teacher.”

How much have you advanced as a musician since taking these classes?

“A lot, looking back I’ve grown so much as a musician and I feel that I’ve learned so much and I can see that progress so much faster than I’ve ever made before.”

What motivates you to continue learning and playing violin?

“It’s really rewarding to finally see my hard work pay off, and when I perform I feel very powerful and that I have control over what I’m doing. It gives me a sense of fulfillment to see everything pay off and have that feeling when I play with my friends.”

What are the benefits to learning by yourself as opposed to learning here at CHS?

“There are definitely benefits to both, but for me personally, because I’m focusing more on my solo stuff, I find it more beneficial to focus on those things at IU, and obviously the CHS Orchestra program is a really great program and it was a really hard decision for me to leave, but I knew ultimately that I wanted to focus more on my solo.”

How has the effects of COVID-19 affected you as a musician?

“So we haven’t fully transitioned onto online yet. From what I know based on the previous experience doing lessons and those kinds of classes online is difficult because of the lag time and the fact that I can’t get feedback in person. The feedback is always a wave because of technological limitations and the fact that the sound of my instrument doesn’t carry as well over video feed as it does in person.”

Where do you find the motivation to continue practicing?

“I know that eventually my lessons will start up again and there is definitely a lot of work I could still do even without the in person lessons. Especially since I do still have those online lessons which will definitely help to a certain extent. Before I left my teacher assigned me a lot of extra work that I wouldn’t normally have because he knew this was coming. I definitely have a lot of work that they’ll assign and a lot of work that I know how to do and especially during this week it hasn’t been that long since I’ve seen my teacher so I’m still keeping up with my regular routine. I’ve had a lot more time to practice so it’s been, so far, somewhat normal with my practice routine except for the fact that I’m practicing more than usual.”