Ian Joe’s determination shines bright


Ian Joe

Ian Joe shows off his passion for violin even at a young age.

He walks into the building, foreign phonemes swarming him as he travels farther inside. Being in a situation where it’s hard to understand the people around you is tough, but it also helps to teach one how to adapt and succeed in unfamiliar circumstances.

Before living in Vernon Hills, Ian Joe (12) lived in and attended schools in both Belgium and Dubai.

At first, Joe had to adjust to the customs and culture of Belgium.

“In Belgium, I attended a French-speaking school,” Joe said. “But not knowing how to speak French, I really struggled in the beginning.”

On the contrary, when Joe lived in Dubai, he said, “there weren’t really any racial majorities’ it’s a truer melting pot than America.”

While his experiences in both places differed, Joe persevered and learned a lot from his time in each.

“Going to school in both of those places made it easier to develop relationships with people who are different from me,” he said.

In school, Joe is a highly-accomplished student with many talents. As the Director of Fundraising for the National Honor Society, a varsity cross-country captain and a talented violinist, Joe is a very involved and successful student.

Joe first started playing the violin when he was only 5 years old. Since then, the violin has brought him numerous experiences which have helped him grow as both a musician and a person.

“The single best opportunity was making it to the state orchestra my sophomore year, which was the first time I got the chance to play really high-level music with incredibly talented musicians,” Joe said. “It really inspired me to work harder to keep getting those opportunities.”

Through his talent and hard work, Joe was selected to be a senior soloist for the Fine Arts concerto competition this spring, which was live streamed on May 12.

Joe says he would like to continue playing the violin in college, but doesn’t know yet if he’s going to audition for the orchestra or play through private lessons only.

“Making any improvement takes an incredible amount of time and dedication, and many times I would be discouraged because I disliked the way I play,” Joe said. “Through violin, I learned that it’s okay to let that feeling of not being good enough drive me forward, not tear me apart.”

Luke Brann (12), who has performed in orchestra with Joe throughout high school, gave some insight on his musical talents.

“Ian is always very dedicated to what he does and always gives his best effort in everything,” Brann said. “He’s been a great stand partner in orchestra and a great friend to have throughout high school.”

Along with being a talented musician, he also has a knack for running. Well, not at first anyway.

When he began running cross country in 8th grade, Joe says he was “one of the slowest.” But, like with the violin, Joe used his incredible determination to sprint to the front.

With lots of hard work and support from his fellow high school teammates, Joe was able to improve his 3-mile time by 4 minutes from the end of freshman year to the end of senior year, qualifying him for Vernon Hills’ state-qualifying varsity team.

“He was always working so hard. Sometimes I’ll see him running around our neighborhood, which shows how committed he is.” Emma Demas (12), a cross country teammate said.

Over the past summer, Joe ran over 400 miles in preparation for the season.

“A lot of that was possible because I loved the high school team and running and hanging out with them,” Joe said. “Some of my favorite memories with them are all the ultimate frisbee games we played and when we would go to Wendy’s after meets and buy 200 spicy nuggets to split among us.”

This year was the first time the varsity team qualified for state, but due to COVID-19, it was unfortunately cancelled. Joe is not too disappointed though, as it was still a great accomplishment for the team.

After high school, Joe plans to attend Brown University, where he will be following a pre-med track. The lessons Joe has learned through his experiences abroad, running, and playing violin will help him in his future at college and in the workforce.

“I just keep pushing myself forward,” he said.