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Riverside High graduate, Katherine Woo, performs in New York and Europe though Carnegie Hall program

By Jim Fair, Editor
Published on Thursday, May 26, 2016

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Katherine Woo will graduate Riverside High School and then travel to New York and Europe to practice and perform as a violinist in a Carnegie Hall music program.
 
 

Katherine Woo will graduate Riverside High School and then travel to New York and Europe to practice and perform as a violinist in a Carnegie Hall music program.

 

 



Enlarge photo

Katherine Woo took the long road to become an accomplished pianist – leaving Greenville by bus at 6 p.m. Friday to arrive at NYC at 6 a.m. Saturday, and then making the exact return trip to Greer on Sunday – almost every weekend for three years.
 
 

Katherine Woo took the long road to become an accomplished pianist – leaving Greenville by bus at 6 p.m. Friday to arrive at NYC at 6 a.m. Saturday, and then making the exact return trip to Greer on Sunday – almost every weekend for three years.

 

 

Performances by Katherine Woo 

• From the top

• Young artist

Graduation from high school is like music to Katherine Woo’s ears.

Woo will walk in Riverside High School’s graduation Tuesday night with all the pomp and circumstance acquitted of an accomplished violinist and semifinalist in the U.S. Presidential Scholars Program.

The summer is already planned for Woo – learning and traveling. She just finished The Julliard Pre-College program where she has spent every Saturday since her sophomore year, following 12-hour bus trips to New York City overnight Friday and returning overnight Saturday.

Woo is the only South Carolinian selected to participate in a summer Carnegie Hall program, based out of State University of New York (SUNY) at Purchase for three weeks practice, that will feature concerts at Purchase College and Carnegie Hall in addition to four concerts in Europe.

“This will be my first time in Europe and I will visit towns and colleges,” Woo said. “We’ll be touring Amsterdam, Netherlands, Denmark, France and the Czech Republic.”

Masao Kawasaki, the director of violins at The Julliard School, has been Woo’s mentor for the past three years.

Woo has applied to schools of music and Ivy League colleges. “I’m not sure what I want to do my next four years,” Woo said. “I would like to join a big orchestra like the New York Philharmonic and go to Europe, and study in Berlin, playing in a lot of concerts.”

But there’s another side of Woo, unrelated to music. “I am interested in pre-med and want to work in the emergency room,” Woo said.

Medicine is not something her father, Feng, thought Woo would show interest in. “I’m sure my dad thought I would be an engineer, but that’s what my brother wants to do,” she said.

Woo is anything but focused on her parent’s ideas of what her life may become, although it has been shaped with academics and fine arts.

Her mother, Jin, who owns a piano studio in California, introduced Woo to music at a young age, 6, playing the piano. A year later, Woo said, “I heard the violin on the radio and became interested in it. It felt right.”

Woo is an accomplished pianist who has been successful in district, regional, state and national competitions. She has played locally in Upstate concerts with a variety of Greenville orchestras. She has not played in the Riverside orchestra but attends the Fine Arts Center at Wade Hampton High School.

Playing solo doesn’t intimidate Woo, but there are some quirks that draw her attention. “When I am playing in front of an audience, I am playing in my own world, and I can’t hear a thing. I am concentrating on my music and the musicians. But I am aware, from the corner of my eyes, someone who may be flipping a corner of the page in their program,” Woo said with a laugh.

“I don’t really get nervous. I love sharing my music with the audience because we’re not here by ourselves. We are performing for the people,” Woo said.

During her high school activities, which also included a passion for soccer and Taekwondo in the evenings, there was little time to focus outside of her studies and music.

Julliard has given Woo a perspective beyond reach of others that began with similar talents. “I am inspired everyday,” Woo said. “It makes me think both musically and outside of music, too. There are so many great teachers in South Carolina, but Julliard has so many opportunities and challenges. I never knew there were so many good kids.”

As difficult as the weekend bus rides were, Woo said the trips and subsequent visits around New York gave her a deep appreciation for the advantages she had.

“I saw homeless people the first time I went to New York and realized how lucky I am,” Woo said. “We rode the subway and saw a lot of different things we don’t see here. I definitely learned a lot musically but learned a lot about different cultures.”

The bus rides were an adventure, according to Woo. “I could sleep during the trip, but my dad had a difficult time sleeping in seats that were straight up.”

She saw raids, with police making drug busts and arrests. “It’s the first time I ever saw someone arrested and handcuffed,” Woo said.

A bus that broke down was no guarantee help was on the way for the “Chinese” bus, $35 one way. “We had to take a cab from Delaware to New York when no help came after five to six hours,” Woo said. “I was freaking out because I needed to be in New York City by 6 a.m. to get ready for my lessons that began at 8 o’clock.”

Soon, Woo will begin the many hours of practice she endures to be a performer and soloist.

“I have fun, but I don’t have fun practicing. Never, never, ever,” Woo emphasized. “I really like performing before people, but practicing is never fun for me. When I was little I may have practiced one hour a day, maybe two. I feel like that has been a good foundation for me, even if I miss a day or two, or even a week.”

 

 

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