Ipoh: A Musical Exchange with Kinta Valley Symphony Society Posted on February 5th, 2020 by

Dispatch from Katelyn Yee ’20, communication studies, sociology, and anthropology

I barged through the doorway with a cello and a handful of bows in my arms and a second cello strapped to my back. The energy in the room was contagious. I literally stood for a moment with my jaw on the floor, taking in the dozens and dozens of musicians opening cases, flipping through music, and filing into their seats. There was the rumble of a timpani, the shiny glint of a horn, the whine of an A string. As I found a seat in the audience, I noticed students our age, middle-aged adults, and a few kids who didn’t look more than 12 years old. Three separate ensembles had joined together today to share a pieces with us. Their sound was incredible and it filled the room to bursting; we jumped out of our seats for a standing-o when they finished.

We got to play part of our set for them next, and the cellists were kind enough to let us use their instruments. (Sending them thanks a thousand times over–this was the first performance sans frantic cello repairs.) When we finished with Star Wars, the note barely had a chance to ring before they started clapping and cheering. I really couldn’t help but smile; it’s such a special feeling to share something that transcends any language.

Katelyn Yee ’20

Later, we crammed every string player onto the floor for a combined sectional, and it hit me so suddenly that this is what I’d been waiting for for the last four years–to make music with my best friends and share it with people from the other side of the world. It’s so hard to believe that it’s here and happening. During the sectional, Dr. Lin talked to us about leading and following, and then she asked what to do when there’s a rallentando in our parts. Without thinking, I said “look up,” and she smiled and said “Yes, Katelyn knows, this is her last year of college so she knows by now that you look up.”

I’ve always liked the saying “never stop looking up” in the positivity sense. I think when it comes to music, looking up at the director is very literal. But I also think that music connects us to other people to whom we should never stop looking up to. We were all about as different as could be, but sharing music helped us connect with someone new.

A quick look down wouldn’t hurt, though; my exit was about as graceful as my entrance as I turned to wave goodbye to our new cello fellows and bulldozed over a chair. Today was one of many special days so far, and as we continue with the second half of the tour, I hope we keep looking up to find all the good to come–the places, the people, and the music.


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