On May 7, violinist Emily Oing took the stage at Memorial Auditorium for her last concert as a member of the Chattanooga Symphony & Opera Youth Orchestra program.
After a decade performing off and on with the organization, she said the moment was distinctly bittersweet.
"There are emotions and sadness involved," she said. "There are people who I may never see again. But there's also this feeling of, 'Wow, I'm going off to college, and I'll start with this other amazing orchestra.' "
Friday, Emily graduated from Girls Preparatory School. She has been accepted to Northwestern University's Bienen School of Music next fall on a full-ride scholarship.
Her musical journey began at age 4, when her mother, LeAnn Oing, began teaching her to play piano. WWhile visiting her cousins in California a year later, she heard the violin for the first time and was enthralled.
At first, the infatuation was basic, a joy in being able to make sounds; but her interest began to deepen at age 6 when she joined the youth orchestra's lowest level, the etude orchestra, as a second violinist.
Within a year, she was a first violin in the second-highest group, the philharmonic. By age 9, she was the youngest performer in the organization's most-advanced group, the youth symphony. Two years later, she reached the symphony's first violin ranks at age 11.
After enrolling in GPS in seventh grade, she opted to leave the youth symphony to concentrate on her studies, although she continued to perform in school orchestras.
Every year beginning in ninth grade, she has served as concertmaster, the highest-ranked violinist, for both the senior orchestra and the GPS/McCallie honors orchestra.
Last year, Emily returned to the youth symphony, this time as concertmaster. She held the position through her senior year.
Although she had played music for most of her life, Emily said she didn't seriously consider pursuing a professional career until she attended the National Symphony Orchestra Summer Music Institute, a four-week festival held every summer at the Kennedy Center in Washington D.C.
There, she had her first taste of performing in chamber ensembles with students from across the country and studied in master classes with professional performers.
That was just one of the memorable experience Emily said she has had since returning to the CSO.
As concertmaster of the youth symphony in 2010, she studied under Midori Goto during the famed violinist's mini-residency with the CSO and CSO youth orchestra programs. The experience culminated in her performing a duet with Goto of Johann Sebastian Bach's Double Violin Concerto.
"That was an amazing experience," she said.
This year, Emily also won the CSO's annual concerto competition with her performance of Jean Sibelius' Violin Concerto in D Minor. She performed the concerto with the CSO twice this spring, most recently during an April 26 concert that was recorded for a broadcast of the National Public Radio program "From the Top."
Emily's private instructor, Dr. Ann Rylands, a graduate of New York's Juilliard School of Music, began teaching Emily in sixth grade. She said Emily is blessed with a natural affinity for the instrument that, when paired with her determination, sets her apart from her peers.
"The violin fit in her hands and she had a natural approach to it that few people have," she said. "I think she can do whatever she wants to do."
Rylands said Emily's experience at the NSO festival has given her the drive she needed to push herself even harder.
"She was around all these wonderful players, and she had never experienced that before," Rylands said. "Then, she decided she wanted to major in music and found out how much work it took, but she did it."
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