Seniors use their talents on the stage

John Lee and David Wu, winners of the VHHS concerto competition, share their experiences


John Lee shifts into position while practicing his technique.

The Senior Concerto Competition is a chance for all VHHS seniors enrolled in an instrumental fine arts program to earn an opportunity to play as a soloist for either the Symphony Orchestra or the Wind Ensemble. Every year, any kind of musician—winds, brass, percussion, or strings— can compete to win a spot as a soloist and “steer the entire ensemble with their instrument,” as Dana Green, VHHS’s resident orchestra director, said.

“We just have this embarrassment of riches of all of this talent that’s in our program, and we wanted to create an opportunity to showcase this talent,” said Green about the competition.

This year, the two winners came from the Symphony Orchestra: David Wu (12) and John Lee (12). 

John Lee (Violin):

   John Lee is the principal violin and concertmaster of the VHHS Symphony Orchestra and also a winner of the Senior Concerto Competition. He will play the first movement of Johannes Brahms’ Violin Concerto for his senior solo piece. 

   Even though he thinks of his practice for the audition as just “something along the way,” Lee rehearses 3 hours a day in preparation for his solo performance. 

   “I think it’s just the competitive nature of the music world that makes me strive to be on top,” he said. “This generation is definitely the most competitive by far, and to be able to pull myself ahead of the crowd, I need to work harder.”

   Lee began his music career at a very young age, and has been playing ever since. 

   “My parents forced a violin onto my hands when I was five years old and I don’t remember anything after that,” he said.

   John plans on continuing his studies of violin in college and has passed pre-screenings for Rice University, Northwestern University, Indiana University, Cleveland Institute of Music, Colburn School of Music, New England Conservatory and Juilliard. He will get his acceptance decisions in either early April or the beginning of May

   Lee’s performance will be on March 23rd. He will play his solo accompanied by the Symphony Orchestra at the Spring Orchestra Concert in the VHHS auditorium.

David Wu (Cello):

David Wu is the principal cellist of the VHHS Symphony Orchestra and one of the two winners of the Senior Concerto Competition. He plans on playing either Joseph Hayden’s Cello Concerto No. 2 or Dmitri Shostakovich’s Cello Concerto No. 1 for his senior solo piece. 

   In preparation for the solo, Wu polishes his pieces every day, setting aside time to practice amidst school work and other activities. 

   Like Lee, Wu began playing at a young age. He discovered the cello in fourth grade during an orientation for new fine arts students. 

   “I knew I was going to play a string instrument, [but] I didn’t know which one yet. And then this dude gave me a cello and he said I was a natural, so I chose it,” he said.

   Although he doesn’t plan on playing the cello in college, Wu spoke about how his time as a musician will still benefit him in the future. 

   “I think the competitive aspect of it has really driven me to become better in everything I do, like school work or sports,” said Wu. “I plan on majoring in engineering [or] computer science, and I know they’re very competitive majors, so it kind of goes hand-in-hand. I’ve had experience with that type of competition, and I think I thrive well in that.”

   Wu’s performance will be on May 16th, during the Senior Farewell Concert at VHHS.


  1. A “concerto” is a piece of classical music that features a soloist, accompanied by an orchestra. 
  2. A “principal” player is the first chair of a section of the symphony and acts as the section leader. 
  3. The “concertmaster” of a symphony is the first chair of the violin section, and is in charge of tuning the orchestra. 

“It’s a pretty big role. They’re leading sections [and] demonstrating techniques that require master musicianship, good maturity and lots of leadership skill,” said Green.