Vestavia Hills resident and recent high school graduate Lydia Hanje fell in love with playing the trumpet at Pizitz Middle School. Her sister convinced her mother to let her join her and made Hanje follow suit.
“My sister was in the band, and I didn’t want to be in it because she was in the band, but my mom forced me to,” Hanje said.
She quickly discovered that she was good at playing the trumpet and later realized that music was something she had a real passion for.
Seven years later, this passion earned Hanje a place in the National Youth Orchestra of the United States of America, a free, multi-week summer music program hosted by the Weill Music Institute at Carnegie Hall. As part of NYO-USA, students learn from professional orchestral musicians, perform in an annual concert at Carnegie Hall in New York City, and perform in concert halls around the world.
Hanje was one of 109 students selected for NYO-USA from 34 states. This year’s orchestra will feature 29 musicians who performed at NYO-USA last year and 33 musicians who performed at NYO2, including Hanje. NYO2 is another free summer orchestra program run by Carnegie Hall for young musicians.
This summer, the students will stay on the campus of Purchase College at the State University of New York for several weeks of training, rehearsals and activities before their concert at Carnegie Hall and their tour across Europe.
Hanje has performed at several popular events, including the Birmingham Wind Symphony, the All-State Band and the All-State Jazz Band, she said.
Although all of her siblings are involved in music — her older sister being an opera singer and her younger brother currently learning to play the saxophone — she wouldn’t classify her parents as musicians, Hanje said.
“No, my parents are deaf,” she laughed.
Hanje was introduced to NYO-USA through her friends when she was a junior at Interlochen Arts Academy last year, an arts boarding school in Interlochen, Michigan.
“They were like, ‘Are you applying to NYO-USA?’ And I was like, ‘What is this?’ “said Hanje.
Hanje said she applied for a spot in the orchestra a few weeks before the deadline, which left her with little time to prepare.
“I just put together a bunch of stuff and was like, ‘Hey, at least I tried,'” Hanje said.
She went to NYO-USA as an alternate, but got a seat at NYO2, she said.
Hanje said she was more prepared to apply for the orchestra this year because she knew NYO-USA ahead of time.
To apply for him, she recorded an audition video, performed four music clips and created a video essay and a personal essay, she said.
Her personal essay was about her finally realizing her dream of playing volleyball when she was a student at Interlochen, she said.
“I played in fourth and fifth grade, but it was baby volleyball,” Hanje said.
In her personal essay, she talked about her experiences bonding with the rest of the volleyball team and her excitement about meeting new people as a member of NYO-USA, a- she declared.
Hanje said she looks forward to meeting new people while performing with the orchestra this summer. Playing the trumpet allowed her to meet interesting people from all over the world, she said.
When she went to her first group camp in Interlochen, she was able to meet people from all over the world, including from Macedonia and Venezuela, Hanje said.
“When I was there [NYO2] last year there were people from Japan and Germany. A friend of mine is from Germany,” Hanje said. “It’s cool to meet people, not only from different parts of the United States, but also from different parts of the world. I feel like everyone has a different musical journey and a story of how they learned to play their instrument and how they got to NYO.
Hanje said music allows her to express herself and communicate how she feels.
“Music is a form of self-expression, and through music I can communicate that and hopefully portray how I feel to the audience when I perform,” Hanje said.
Hanje said she was outgoing and it can be shown through some of her performances. If she plays fast and energetic music, she can feel her personality in the music, she said.
“When I play slower, more beautiful music, I really have to think about what I want to represent,” Hanje said. “I don’t like talking about deep, emotional things as much as I like making jokes, so I have to find it in myself. If that means making up a story in my head, I do.
She said that when she was in school, a music teacher would sit her down in front of a piece of music and ask her what kind of song she thought it was.
“Is it a love song or a pirate song?” he would ask.
Hanje said she was excited to perform “Symphony No. 5,” a composition by Gustav Mahler and this year’s musical piece selected by NYO-USA, because she has a “heavy trumpet part” and she doesn’t. never played before.
“I played the parts in a brass class but never performed them, so I’m excited to play them,” Hanje said.
After her concert at Carnegie Hall and her tour of Europe, Hanje will go to Rice University in Houston to pursue a bachelor’s degree in trumpet performance.
Her dream is to play professionally as an orchestral musician and to travel with different orchestras in the country, she said.
According to the Carnegie Hall website, Andrew Carnegie was inspired to build the music hall by his wife, Louise, and Walter Damrosch, conductor of the Symphony Society of New York and the Oratorio Society, a group of choral music in New York. Iconic musicians of all genres throughout history have performed at Carnegie Hall, including Billie Holiday, Judy Garland, The Beatles, Tchaikovsky, Benny Goodman, Gustav Mahler and George Gershwin.
The first NYO program, NYO-USA, was created in 2013, followed by NYO2 in 2016 and NYO Jazz in 2018.
Hanje will perform at NYO-USA’s first concert of the summer season on July 28 at 8 p.m. on Carnegie Hall’s Perelman Stage at the Stern Auditorium.