Music is just one aspect of the performing arts, so it’s no surprise that many students who achieve on their instrument are also talented performers in other areas. This month’s two-for-one Student Feature introduces Overture Strings’ Asha Dale Hopman and Preparatory Strings’ Charlie Long, both fantastic young string players who also happen to be talented actors with budding stage careers.
First off, can you introduce yourself?
Asha: My name is Asha Dale Hopman, and I’m 7 years old. I play cello in Overture Strings.
Charlie: I am Charlie Long and I am 11 years old from Plainfield. I play the violin in Preparatory Strings.
How long have you been in CYSO and what do you like about it?
Asha: This is my second year in CYSO. I love the way it sounds when the whole group plays together. Each string instrument sounds beautiful on its own, but together they make something even more special. Since joining CYSO, I’ve
learned a lot. The conductor, Mrs. Anne, is really kind and makes rehearsal so fun. And I like being with the other musicians. It’s especially nice to get to know your stand partner and to learn from each other.
Charlie: I have been in CYSO for 5 years—one year in Overture Strings and four years in Preparatory Strings—and I love it when I hear the full sound of the orchestra.
We’ve heard that you’re both involved in acting and musical theatre. Can you share more about that?
Charlie: My parents say I have been singing since I was born. I got involved with stage acting and musicals at 4 years old with StagePlay Musical Theater for Kids in Plainfield. My first lead role I had was Charlie Bucket in Roald Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory with Lockport Homer Youth Theater in 2019. Most recently this summer, I was Winthrop in Little Mountain Community Theater’s The Music Man in Lemont.
Asha: I’ve always loved performing. Ever since I was little, I’ve been putting on music, dance, or theater shows for my family in my free time. Two years ago, I began going to musical theater camps at Ovation Academy in Oak Park. I really loved it because musical theater brings together my passions for music, dance and acting. One of my teachers there suggested I audition for a professional production of The Sound of Music. I ended up being cast as the understudy for two roles: Marta and Gretl. I got to go on stage and perform each role twice a week. It was so much fun! I learned so much and made really good friends. After the show closed, I started auditioning for more roles. I recently performed as Gretl in another production of The Sound of Music at the Beverly Arts Center.
What have you learned from acting and being part of these theater productions?
Asha: I’ve learned that we can all work together and you can ask each other for advice and learn from each other. You can also learn a lot from just watching other people’s performances. I pay a lot of attention to the adult performers and I like seeing what each person brings to their role each time. Everyone in the shows I’ve been in has been very kind about sharing their knowledge and experience. At my first show, I even got to go in the sound booth and listen in to the cello in the live orchestra!
Charlie: I have learned that the stage isn’t a scary place but a place to express yourself and have fun with your friends. I also think that even though it is a lot of work, the reward is so worth it.
Are there any connections between theater and music? Do you think one makes you better at the other?
Charlie: In both you have to put in the work and know your music. You have to be able to read music with dynamics, articulations, and rhythms. You have to love what you’re doing to come prepared and ready to put 101% into your rehearsal or performance. You need to be able to work together and be flexible with one another. I think both CYSO and acting help the other equally.
Asha: Theater and music both let you share your feelings and emotions with audiences. And both take a lot of listening and working together. Whether I’m acting or playing in orchestra, I need to really pay attention to everyone around
me and react to the other performers and musicians. I’ve also gotten a lot better at sight reading since joining CYSO, and that’s helped me a lot when I’m learning new songs or new harmonies for musical theater productions. And my experience in both activities gives me more confidence to get up and perform in front of an audience.
Is it hard to give your time and attention to both acting and music? How do you balance it?
Asha: Sometimes it’s very busy! But I always try to focus my energy on just one thing at a time. So when I’m practicing cello, I’m just thinking about cello. And same thing for theater and dance. It also helps that my teachers are all very supportive and understanding.
Charlie: I think it isn’t that hard because like I said before both music and acting are very similar to each other and doing one can help the other. You have to practice a little each day and make sure to take some breaks along the way.
Do you have any exciting performances coming up?
Charlie: I will be playing the role of Kurt Von Trapp in Paramount Theater’s production of The Sound of Music in Aurora. Performances run from Nov 9, 2022 through Jan 8, 2023.
Asha: This December, I’m going to play the role of Taylor in a holiday show Junior Claus at the Citadel Theatre in Lake Forest. The show tells the story of Santa’s son, Junior, who doesn’t believe in Christmas, but with the help of his friends (including my character), he regains his Christmas spirit and saves the holiday. The show runs from December 20th-30th with two matinees each day. I’m really excited because the script is very funny and it will get people in the holiday spirit.
Anything else that’s interesting or unusual that you’d like to share?
Asha: I’m also a member of the Forever Friends dance ensemble at Forevermore Dance and Theatre Arts in Chicago. This year I’m working on my first solo dance, which will be to the theme music from Alice in Wonderland. I’m excited to do a dance that really lets me use my acting skills, too. Dance is another way I bring together my love of music and acting.
Charlie: I am a 6th grader at Ira Jones Middle School in Plainfield. I play baseball, am learning French horn, run cross country, and have a three-legged dog, Luna. My twin brother, Jake, is in CYSO’s Groove Steelpan ensemble.