Singing and Sightseeing

Developing Musical Skills Through Travel


TUNEFUL TOURING During a city tour of Prague in 2017, Hyunwoo Roh and his friends from Golden State Youth Orchestra stopped for a photo before performing their first central Europe concert in Smetana Hall that evening. The students promoted their concerts with posters and flyers to draw a larger audience. “At least for the tour two years ago [in 2017] each hall was a full house,” Roh says. Photo by Kevin Cao

“To hear my own voice echoing through the giant ceiling, it was so magical,” senior Helen Noroian says, as she describes singing a solo in a ornate church in Rome on the Palo Alto High School choirs’ trip to Italy last summer.
“It [the church] was just the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen,” Noroian says. “For us all to be there together witnessing that
beauty … it was just really cool.”

For Noroian and many Paly students, performing internationally is a recurring opportunity of the Paly music program or an out-
side youth music organization. Through these trips, students can perform in unique halls and churches around the globe and be exposed to other cultures’ music and attitudes towards music.

“The basic goal of the tour is to perform in those really famous halls,” says senior Hyunwoo Roh, a member of Golden State Youth Orchestra. “Also it is to experience the cultures of these specific places.”
Students in GSYO often bring music from different cultures to perform on their trips and deepen their understanding of the culture they visit.
“Especially with Russia this year there’s a lot of Russian music we play [to] experience the Russian culture,” Roh says. “The conductor wants us to experience that [music] to enhance our musical playing.”
Besides performing in renowned music centers, performing for others outside of their typical audience of relatives or friends allows students to interact with different kinds of people and different approaches to musical performance.

“They [international audiences] are a lot more receptive,” Noroian says. “Places outside of Palo Alto … like live music a lot
more than the audiences we get at a high school. The places I’ve been the people have been more expressive and more passionate for the music.”
Students can experience this interaction with different people through the unique experiences that traveling provides. On trips, Noroian often sings impromptu performances with Paly choir at the base of monuments while sightseeing.

“Sometimes we’ll just find a place and sing and then people will gather around us,” Noroian says. “It’s fun to sing for people like that, spontaneously.”
Whether students are performing for large audiences at Carnegie Hall or a small audiences at a tourist attraction, the more rigorous rehearsal and performance schedule of the trips demands a higher level of professionalism from students.

“Performing in these super professional, famous halls with a really serious audience that really likes classical music motivates me … [and] the musicians to get more serious [and] play better,” Roh says.

Through performances and sightseeing, traveling with a musical group allows students to connect with others and create a close community of performers.
“They [the students] are all serious about music, so traveling with a music group compared to family is a lot more fun,” Roh says. “It helps build chemistry and strengthen friendships.”