THS Students Make History with Grammy Win

THS Students Make History with Grammy Win

Gia Shin, Co-Editor-in-Chief

On February 5, 2023, students from Tenafly High School made history as part of the New York Youth Symphony (NYYS), which became the first-ever youth orchestra to win a Grammy Award in the “Best Orchestral Performance” category.

NYYS is a nationally-recognized music organization based in New York City. It was founded in 1963 and serves young musicians between the ages of 12 and 22 by providing them with opportunities to perform and grow as artists. Four THS students and alumni were involved in the recording: Iris Sung (’23), Angelina Lee (’23), Hannah Park (’22), and Eugene Jang (’22).

Though the COVID-19 pandemic halted many activities, these passionate musicians worked harder than ever to record an album showcasing the power of unity in times of uncertainty. “When even professional musicians were not performing, we did not lose hope, and we wanted to do a fun project, which came out to be a wonderful gift to the entire orchestra,” Sung, violinist and concertmaster of NYYS, said.

Because of the pandemic restrictions, the album had to be recorded with smaller groups of people with chairs spread six feet apart from each other. Musicians wore headphones and relied on a click track for guidance. Once each part was recorded, they were then combined to produce a cohesive final product. “The process was isolating, but the end product felt like a real orchestra,” Lee, violist, said. “Seeing it all come together made me emotional because we spent long hours practicing.” Every Sunday, Lee would sit through hours of rehearsal from 10 a.m. until late in the evening.

The untitled debut album pays homage to Black composers Florence Price, Valerie Coleman, and Jessie Montgomery. It was produced by Judith Sherman, who previously won a Grammy Award for classical producer of the year. The Grammy Awards are widely considered to be the most prestigious awards in the music industry. Taking home the gold, NYYS beat some of the most elite orchestras across the globe, including the Berlin Philharmonic and the Los Angeles Philharmonic, led by conductors John Williams and Gustavo Dudamel, respectively.

At the end of the day, NYYS is a place for young, talented musicians to feel like they are a part of the larger music community. “NYYS is probably one of the most close-knit communities of musicians I’ve experienced,” Lee said. “The environment is comfortable—everyone is your friend, including your conductor.” Sung echoed a similar sentiment: “My first rehearsal with NYYS was when I was 12, and everyone in the orchestra was much more accomplished and older than I was,” she said. “I aspired to fit in, and now, five years later, I have found myself as the concertmaster. During those five years, I learned to fit into the orchestra, and it feels wonderful to be able to perform with the orchestra that I grew up with.” This year, Sung is the concertmaster of NYYS—the lead violinist who plays a key role in leading and setting the tone and standards for the rest of the ensemble.

Now, NYYS is preparing for its concert at the prestigious venue, Carnegie Hall, in March. They will be performing a diverse repertoire with works by Asian composer Bobby Ge, Black composer Florence Price, and German composer from the Romantic era, Robert Schumann. “In this upcoming concert, we will have the same pianist from the album playing the Robert Schumann Piano Concerto alongside the orchestra,” Chang Yoon Kim (’26), who joined NYYS last year, said. “She is a spectacular player, and I can’t wait to perform on the same stage as her.”

This immense accomplishment is a testament to the impact young people can have.