Melinda Chen: an amazing violinist at Fargo North

The ND All-State Orchestra rehearsing

Melinda Chen, a sophomore at Fargo North High School, earned the spot of co-concertmaster at the ND All-State Musical Festival, placing her as one of the top violinists in the state of North Dakota.!
“I was really excited, but at the same time I almost felt bad because the other people who were also in the top six also worked very hard. I was very proud of myself. I was also very surprised because I was not expecting that for my second year of All-State,” Chen said.
Although this accomplishment wasn’t expected, it was made possible by years of hard work.
Chen began her violin studies when she was in fifth grade. “I wanted to join orchestra and the violin seemed appealing to me,” said Chen.
Chen stayed because of the kind, supportive, and unique orchestra community. That year, Chen began her violin studies with a college student named Nick Poser. She excelled early on, helped along by her piano studies that she’d been taking since she was four years old. Soon, Chen went looking for a more talented and experienced teacher. She transferred to Mary Weisser in the middle of sixth grade.
The violin is a very time consuming passion. Chen auditioned for and was admitted into the Fargo Moorhead Area Youth Symphony (FMAYS), which rehearses weekly. She also continues to take weekly violin lessons with Mary Weisser. She plays for the Fargo North High Orchestra (Symphony) and Chamber Orchestra, and she attends orchestra camps during the summer. All this requires many hours of practice to prepare. Of course, this amount of time and dedication can prove to be challenging.
“Practicing consistently is a big [challenge]. Also, just staying motivated, especially during pandemic. It’s very hard because of all of the things being cancelled… I try to look forward to the next big event, that usually makes you want to practice, because you want to do well. Again, that’s hard because of the pandemic,” Chen said.
Luckily, Chen had EDC to look forward to. In years past, EDC was a full day event. Students would be taken out of school to compete with other students across the region. If they earned an EDC star, then they would progress to State, which would occur about a month later. This year, there were some modifications. Students instead competed against other students from the same school. Instead of it being a full day event, students would miss class for a small period of time in order to play their piece. Unfortunately, they were unable to watch their friends if they had class. Despite all of these less than ideal modifications, Chen said, “I’m glad that EDC happened.”
Preparing for EDC takes much time and effort. Chen began work on her solo and Dvorak quartet in early fall. Chen also decided to prepare a viola solo. “Three months ago I wanted to do a viola solo at EDC. I really like the sound of the viola. It was a nice instrument to pick up. There were so many familiar things,” said Chen.
After deciding what to prepare for EDC, the hard work began.
“My favorite thing to practice is my solos and ensembles with other people. Sometimes I have to practice nitty gritty stuff: etudes, scales. Even though it’s not the best, you just have to get them out of the way,” Chen said.
After all this hard work, Chen was ready for her EDC performances, which occurred on Wed., April 7.
Although Chen was excited for her first EDC, she also said, “Sometimes competition can be very stressful. You always want to do well, but you won’t always.”
Luckily, Chen did extremely well at EDC. She won an OP (Outstanding Performance) for her violin solo performance. An OP is only awarded to one musical performance. She also was awarded a state star for both her Dvorak quartet and her viola solo.
Chen has worked very hard to get where she is today, but it wouldn’t have been possible without many people supporting her along the way.
“My parents… all of my orchestra teachers at school, and obviously my private lesson teacher [are all very supportive]. They [my parents] come to my concerts. They always give me positive feedback. They encourage me to do well and to have fun. That’s important,” Chen said.
Many of these people are so influential, because they see the best in Chen.
Gregory Schultz, the orchestra director at Fargo North, said, “Melinda is the kind of violinist that can turn you into a lazy conductor, because she’ll play just about everything on sight and trick you into thinking the entire section knows the part. She’s an exceptional player, that’s for sure.”
Although Chen is extremely grateful and excited about all she has accomplished, she is also frustrated by the lack of recognition that goes towards the music and art departments.
“It’s sometimes frustrating that music and the arts in general don’t get as much recognition as sports and other activities. It’s a lot of work to succeed as a musician, arguably as much as it is for sports and I feel like it’s very overlooked or underestimated. It makes me sad that to a lot of people, participating in music or the arts is considered lame or weird,” Chen said.
Despite this lack of recognition, Chen still has a passion for music. She plans to continue working hard, competing, and auditioning for selective opportunities. Even though Chen is hoping to go to college for STEM, she still wants to keep violin in her life.
“I hope to keep music part of my life, I’m already putting in so much work. I don’t want to throw away that opportunity,” Chen said.
Music has been an extremely important and valuable part of Chen’s life. Therefore, Chen recommends playing a musical instrument to anyone.
Chen said, “I’d recommend playing any instrument. The music community is a special community to be part of. There are personal benefits to it… It [playing the violin] has helped me learn as a team with other people when being in ensembles. Also, violin is very self driven so violin keeps me on top of my stuff. [It’s also good for] learning self discipline and having a passion that I care about.”
If anyone is considering starting a musical instrument, or even if they’ve been playing for a while, it might be wise to keep in mind what Chen wished she could have told her younger self, “Don’t take it too seriously, don’t go too hard on yourself. You started this just for fun. Don’t stress out about it.”