CYSO Cellist Creates The Swan Project to Bring Hope During Difficult Times

CYSO students display their resilience and creativity on a daily basis, and never more so than now as we continue music-making while socially distant. CYSO Social Media Team member and Philharmonic Orchestra violinist Shreya Dudeja recently interviewed Symphony Orchestra co-principal cellist Brandon Cheng about his newest musical venture, a virtual video collaboration with musicians across the globe that’s gone viral on YouTube and even caught the attention of Yo-Yo Ma.

Brandon, right, and Cameron, left, collaborated on The Swan Project

We are all in the midst of a global pandemic. Many of us have never seen anything like this and are filled with apprehension and fear of the unknown. In order to divert our minds from COVID-19 concerns and provide us with some comfort, CYSO’s Symphony Orchestra cellist Brandon Cheng and Chicagoland cellist Cameron Chiu put together a special project to share with the world.
The pair collaborated with 24 cellists from around the world to put together a performance of The Swan by Camille Saint-Saëns. These musicians, all with commendable amounts of talent, were within between 14-21 years old. Their video, titled “The Swan Project”, now has over 100,000 views on YouTube. 

Brandon had the idea to start this project as a way to continue to make music in quarantine. He originally wanted the video to feature 12 cellists from across the United States that he had met through summer camps, but Cameron had the idea to expand the project to the rest of the world and invite 12 international cellists to participate.
They began their search for international cellists when Brandon messaged a violinist he knows from Austria who also plays in Italy. She knew cellists from Italy and provided Brandon with additional contacts.
According to Brandon, it was challenging to find international cellists. Communication was tough due to time zone differences and the overall coordination took time. However, the project was able to come together in just a little over a week. 

Technically speaking, all cellists sent in a full video playing The Swan to Cameron, who took care of all the video editing and spliced the 24 clips together using a video software called Final Cut Pro. Cameron’s mom, Inah, played the background piano track which everyone to, and it’s her track that we all hear in the video. 
Brandon shared that his favorite parts of the project were reaching out to people and seeing the final product. Since he knew a lot of the cellists within the U.S., the project was an opportunity to reconnect with them and see how everyone was doing.
Brandon said that although he knows that “music itself cannot cure a sickness, we might as well have something to look up to and look forward to.” He continued, “Why not keep finding ways to play and create a really cool collaboration to share that with the world?” 


Shreya Dudeja is a violinist in CYSO’s Philharmonic Orchestra and a member of the CYSO Social Media Team. This is her third year in CYSO and she studies violin with David Dai. Shreya was also a member of the Naperville Youth Symphony Orchestra for three years. This past summer, she toured abroad with Blue Lake Fine Arts Camp’s International Youth Symphony Orchestra. Shreya is a junior at Metea Valley High School. 

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