CYSO Tour: Grace Hong Prepares for Europe

CYSO’s Symphony Orchestra sets off on a 10-day Tour of Central Europe on Monday, June 19. Violinist and CYSO summer intern Grace Hong wrote about how she’s preparing for Europe and what she’s most looking forward to about tour.

CYSO’s 2017 tour to Europe has almost begun! That thought has been running in my mind for several weeks now, and as it soon becomes a reality, I feel excitement, though with a tinge of nervousness.

In the past, my international experiences have been limited to two countries: Mexico and China. In both, I thoroughly enjoyed my introduction to novel cultures, yet I have yearned to travel more. Thus, I am beyond enthusiastic to be able to tour through more than three countries in the span of ten days while also performing in world-class venues. These countries are filled with historical and musical significance spanning from Serbia’s Nikola Tesla to Hungary’s György Ligeti. I will be sure to learn about Central Europe’s culture, taste the food, explore its rich history, and admire the views.
However, I still have some small concerns. Since the countries to which we are traveling do not use the euro, we will be changing currency from one country to another. My hope is that I will have enough of each currency to experience all the wonderful tastes from Serbian Pljeskavica to Czech bramboráky to Hungarian goulash (Yes, I found these on Wikipedia, and yes, I plan to try them all while I am there!). Moreover, I am afraid of unknowingly accruing a large bill from currency conversion rates or phone usage. This will also be my first international trip without my family. I have made sure to pack everything necessary, but I am sure, even now, that I already forgot something. Nonetheless, it is comforting to know that while my family will not be with me, my CYSO family is by my side.
European Foods
Throughout the tour, there will be plenty of opportunities for cultural exchange. We will perform with the Symphony Orchestra of the Music High Schools of Prague, an amazing experience through which we can draw similarities and differences between our orchestras. 

Another of our performances will take place in Jihlava’s Mahler Festival, one of the most popular events the Czech town organizes. While Mahler is not in our tour repertoire, I am delighted by the hearty welcome extended by this invitation to perform.
My primary enthusiasm stems from sharing our music with an international audience. It is our privilege to represent the United States abroad, and though there may be language barriers, music is a form of communication that all can enjoy. Furthermore, several of the compositions we will perform will be recognizable for the European audience; for instance, Hungarian Dance by Hector Berlioz is likened to a national song for Hungarians. That detail certainly motivates me to practice more! For our final stop in Prague, we will be performing Dvorak’s Carnival Overture in the Rudolfinum, where Dvorak premiered the piece. It is almost as if we are performing under Dvorak’s intimidating but proud shadow, and it shows that the universality of music is one that transcends time.

A view of the Rudolfinum’s stage

For the most part, there will be so much going on that I cannot possibly capture my entire experience, but for the time being, tour offers one last wonderful experience to share with my CYSO friends before we part for college and an unparalleled opportunity for growth as a musician.

About Grace

Grace Hong has been a violinist in the Chicago Youth Symphony Orchestras program for seven years, beginning in Preparatory Strings. In her sophomore year, she participated in CYSO's Chamber Music program as a Music Pathways Ambassador and performed in a string quartet to youth in Chicago Public Schools. In her free time, Grace enjoys playing the piano. In fall, she will be attending Princeton University.

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