A message to the reader: Challenge yourself to achieve greater feats


Ryan Choe

[dropcap]W[/dropcap]hen I found out I had made it into the High School Honors Performance Series back in December 2017, I couldn’t believe the news. I had sent an audition tape to the program’s director with a recording of me playing a cello solo piece in September as a result of my making the Missouri All-State Orchestra.
My orchestra teacher Alison Schmidt gave me the audition form and helped provide me with this priceless opportunity: to play at Carnegie Hall. I received the notification in an email from the program, and I couldn’t quite digest the amazing and overwhelming information at first. In two months later I would be going to the world-renowned Carnegie Hall.
As the date grew closer, I started thinking about the rich history of Carnegie Hall and the fantastic city of New York. I couldn’t help but think about all the great conductors and musicians who had played at Carnegie Hall, music legends like Leonard Bernstein, Yo-Yo Ma and Itzhak Perlman.
Music has been with me since the age of four, and throughout the past 12 years I’ve had four cello teachers, four different-sized cellos and cello bows, gone through crazy crying fits of frustration and practiced for an unimaginable amount of hours.
And yet, I wouldn’t change anything about how I got to where I am today. When I look back on where cello has brought me, especially in the past three months, I notice how my challenge to push myself helped me reach undeniably wonderous accomplishments.
Through it all my parents were right by my side, unconditionally loving and supporting me on my journey to pursuing my cello dreams. The week before I went to Carnegie Hall, I was at the Tan-Tar-A Resort and Spa in Osage Beach, Missouri for the Missouri All-State Orchestra camp. During my time, I didn’t realize how lucky I was to be there. I had a really fun and amazing time throughout that last week of January, but I didn’t recognized how much work I had put into the massive effort of trying to get into the orchestra until I looked back.
Funny enough, the same thing happened with the Carnegie Hall experience too. While playing on stage, I was pretty nervous because I had a big solo in all six of our pieces. After all, I was the principal cellist for the string orchestra. I just remember being so proud because I accomplished something so amazing, and my whole family was crying during the performance.
That stage was the best stage I ever played on. The whole thing just went by so fast that I hardly had the time to digest the enriching activities and events of the week. Looking back on it now, I see how much of an amazing opportunity I had.
(The daily schedule of all the things I did during the Carnegie Hall High School Honors Program)
Thursday – 2/1/18:

  • Checked in on the third floor of the Rendezvous Trianon room of the Hilton Midtown (1355 6th Avenue New York, NY 10019)
  • Ate dinner at the Melt Shop with my group and chaperone, Stephon (room 1118)
  • Settled into my room with mates Caden (from Alaska), AJ (from Louisiana) and Alfredo (from Texas)

Friday – 2/2/18:

  • Woke up at 6:40 a.m. to walk to breakfast
  • Picked breakfast up at Starbucks, brought to Cafe 53 and ate in room (1150)
  • Morning rehearsal in Rendezvous Trianon 8:30 a.m. to 12:15 p.m. (with a 20 minute break in the middle)
  • Ate lunch at Chipotle
  • Afternoon rehearsal in RT 1:45 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. (with a 20 minute break in middle)
  • Dinner at Ray’s Pizza
  • Met in Sutton South room on second floor to walk to Minskoff Theatre; walked through Times Square to get there
  • Watched The Lion King musical! 8:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m. (with a 10 minute intermission)

Saturday – 2/3/18:

  • Woke at 6:40 a.m. to walk to breakfast
  • At breakfast at Astro Restaurant
  • Morning rehearsal in Rendezvous Trianon 8:30 a.m. to 12:15 p.m. (with 20 minute break in the middle)
  • Walked to Carnegie Hall and took some sweet pictures outside and of the indoor museum and gift shop
  • Bought a pinkish shirt at the gift shop with the building on the front
  • Ate lunch at Five Guys, but had to hurry back to the hotel for the afternoon rehearsal
  • Afternoon rehearsal in RT 1:45 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. (w/ 20 minute break in middle)
  • Walked to shuttle buses outside hotel to drive us to yacht
  • Had party on yacht with chicken tenders, salad bar, mac and cheese and garden vegetables, sprite
  • Had DJ play some music and danced and partied hard on the yacht
  • Sang to bunch of songs like Party in USA, Bodak Yellow, 24K Magic, Shut Up and Dance, Super Bass, Bohemian Rhapsody, etc.
  • Took pictures on roof of yacht of the Statue of Liberty and Brooklyn Bridge
  • Party from 5:45 p.m. to 11:00 p.m.

Sunday – 2/4/18:

  • Woke at 6:40 a.m. to walk to get breakfast
  • Picked breakfast up at Cafe 53 and ate in room (1150)
  • Walked to Rockefeller center and went to the Top of the Rock (67 stories up in 43 seconds!)
  • Walked around Rockefeller Center
  • Ate lunch from food truck The Halal Guys (chicken Souvlaki) in room
  • Walked to Times Square and spent time there (plus took TONS of pictures)
  • Went to Disney store and M&Ms store (personality color is light blue meaning I’m determined to achieve my goals)
  • Picked up dinner from Stephon’s room (fried chicken tenders with fries) and ate dinner in my room
  • Before eating, took an Uber to Carnegie Hall and took pictures with the fam (around 300)
  • Loaded buses and went to Carnegie Hall
  • Unloaded buses and went to warm up rooms (cellos and basses on fifth floor, violas and violins on fourth floor)
  • Ran through our pieces on the stage, took pictures of the Hall and a panoramic from Maestro Jason Seber
  • Performed first! Crushed solo!
  • Watched band play next, followed by symphonic orchestra (which played last)
  • Frantically checked phone for the Super Bowl scores while switching between pieces
  • Went back to hotel and took pictures with Stephon; exchanged contacts with Cole (friend I made) and Nadia (my stand partner)
  • Went back to room and packed

Monday – 2/5/18:

  • Went to bed at 2:15 a.m., woke up at 4:40 a.m. for flight
  • Took Uber to airport and dropped off sis at Terminal A (jetBlue)
  • Got dropped off at Terminal B (Southwest), checked in and went through security, bought Dunkin cherry-filled donut at shop, boarded flight
  • Flew and slept (also slept during Uber ride)
  • Landed at Lambert Airport at like 9:10 a.m.-ish (CT)
  • Picked up by Parking Spot 1 shuttle bus (blue with white polka dots)
  • Settled into car and drove home (slept whole ride, didn’t even have time to eat McDonald’s pancake, sausage and hash brown purchased for breakfast)
  • Arrived at home by 11:30 a.m. (CT)

I can’t fully explain how much fun I had during my trip. The performance at Carnegie Hall wasn’t the only awesome thing I got to experience. The Lion King musical on Broadway simply took my breath away, along with the freezing New York City temperature that night. Unsurprisingly, the party on the yacht was exhilarating.
But the best part of my experience was meeting some extraordinary high schoolers from around the globe. The raw talent, dedication, humor and kindness is something I will never forget from my time at the program.
I’m sure after reading everything up to this point, people are probably wondering what’s the point the whole point of my story.
I mean, who, other than me and my family, cares about my accomplishments? Is my story supposed to leave people in awe and make them feel jealous of me or treat me as some sort of deity?
To those questions, I say no. If I gain respect, so be it; that’s great and I fully appreciate that. But the primary thing I want people to take from this is one simple message: challenge yourself and see where it takes you.
I find myself telling my friends to challenge themselves every day I am around them, one way or another. Of course, the common argument against my advice is that they don’t need to challenge themselves because they are fine where they are. They are fine settling for things because it has a reasonable payoff for them, and also because there is no risk or danger when they are settling to be average.
But that thinking could not be more flawed. Obviously, they don’t have to challenge themselves for certain things, and evidently they aren’t forced to do so by law.
But what I say is: Why not challenge yourself?
As the great retired football coach Bruce Arians once said, “No risk-it, no biscuit.” This is just a simple message saying that nothing truly amazing, thrilling or extremely worthwhile comes without hard work and focus. Plus, it is a quote I take to heart because I believe nothing that is worth so much comes for free.
I offer this challenge because it is a challenge where an individual has almost nothing to lose and yet everything to gain. In my case, my hard work and relentless effort resulted in me having the experience of two lifetimes. But people don’t have to spend 12 years playing an instrument, sport or anything like that to achieve something spectacular.
For certain people, their greatest challenges might be getting an A in one of their hardest classes, nailing that perfect 100-meter dash time, studying hard to get into medical school, earning a degree from graduate school or even something as simple as asking out their biggest crush. No matter what that challenge is, I am sure that if people give a full effort in accomplishing their end-goal and completing their challenge, they will reap the rewards with much happiness.
So I leave you, the reader, with this thought: challenge yourself to one thing and see what happens. When I challenged myself, I was granted the privilege to go to Carnegie Hall. So go ahead and challenge yourself because someday, your window of opportunity might close.