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Two Somers High School Musicians Make All-State

SOMERS, N.Y. – Every year, approximately 7,000 music students from all over New York State are nominated by their teachers to participate in the All-State Music Festival sponsored by the New York State School Music Association (NYSSMA). About 900 young musicians are ultimately chosen. The judging is considered meticulous and the competition has been called “intense.”

Somers has two winning candidates, violist Jemmin Chang and pianist Ruina Zhang, both juniors at Somers High School .

Chang has been playing viola since the third grade. He started with the school orchestra program and finally added private lessons in his first year of high school. A few years ago he added violin to his repertoire.

The most satisfying thing about music is “realizing that you’ve made some progress,” Chang said. “You don’t realize until you look back. If you’re diligent about practicing, you know you’ll always improve.”

Co-winner Ruina Zhang approached her parents when she was 5 and asked for piano lessons. She said, “It was really hard at first, but after two or three years it got easier.”

Both students are traveling to Rochester, N.Y. to participate in the Festival this weekend. “Playing in a big symphony orchestra is the most fun,” Chang said. “It’s an incredible experience to play with people who are well-trained.”

Zhang added, “It’s fun to work with other people who play the same songs, to see how they interpret the music differently.”

Anne Harris, director of Somers High School Orchestra, called the New York area “very competitive” compared to other parts of the state. “Last year nobody from Somers made All-State. In fact, I can’t remember the last time.”

Speaking of her two winners, she said, “Both of these kids are outstanding. They’re involved in other things, too.”

How much do they practice? For Chang, it is four times a week for one or two hours, in addition to playing with the school orchestra. Zhang practices an hour every day, usually after school. “You need patience and the determination to sit there,” she said.

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