Two WLHS freshmen girls claim seats in America’s first Youth Orchestra

Theresa Li and Miki Nakai, freshmen, to perform as cellists for the Portland Youth Conservatory Orchestra

While juggling academics, sports and clubs, two freshman girls have succeeded in yet another extracurricular: music. Theresa Li and Miki Nakai, are members of the Portland Youth Conservatory Orchestra, an orchestra within the Portland Youth Philharmonic community.

“When I first got into PYP, I had only played the cello for nine months, so I didn’t expect to get in,” Li said. Li picked up the large string instrument in sixth grade and joined PYCO only after one year of playing. She admits it took a lot of dedication but with enough practice, she was able to be where she wanted.

“If you practice a lot, you get really good and you’ll eventually get to where you’ll be able to reach your goal,” Li said. After realizing she had zero experience of playing in a full orchestra, she began feeling apprehensive. That uneasiness soon disappeared after playing in the orchestra for a few weeks.

Nakai was first introduced to the cello in third grade. After watching her older sister play her violin with a fiery passion, Nakai wondered if she should switch to the violin as well. Now though, she has no regrets of sticking with her instrument.

“I really love the deep tone the cello has,” Nakai said. After six years of playing the cello, Nakai decided to audition for a seat in the Portland orchestra. After her audition, she didn’t have much confidence of being accepted. During the sight-reading portion of her audition, she missed some notes and a couple other accidentals. Instead of breaking down, Nakai was able to hold together and finish strong.

“The judges looked at me and said, ‘we know it’s hard,’ so that helped me take a bit of weight off my chest,” Nakai said.

You can experience what hours of extreme commitment and hard work sounds like on Sunday, May 3 at the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Ha0ll in downtown Portland. Tickets cost $12 per adult and $10 per child.