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Tri-Valley students shine in SF Symphony Youth Orchestra

San Ramon teen reflects on time with group ahead of 40th anniversary concert
Conductor directing symphony orchestra. (Stock photo)

One of the world's best-known student orchestras, the San Francisco Symphony Youth Orchestra, is playing its 40th anniversary concert this weekend -- and performing onstage will be several young musicians representing the Tri-Valley.

The 40th anniversary concert takes place this Sunday (May 21) at 2 p.m. at the Davies Symphony Hall in downtown San Francisco. Audience members will be able to listen to renditions of "The Rite of Spring" by Igor Stravinsky, "An American in Paris" by George Gershwin and others.

Of the total 100 musicians performing, seven originate from the Tri-Valley.

To join the group, individuals must go through a rigorous audition process and meet various technical requirements. Students range in age from 12 to 21 and come from communities across the greater Bay Area.

San Ramon student Hannah Lam has been with the symphony since 2019 and is just weeks away from being a graduating high school senior. Lam discussed her experience performing as part of the group with Livermore Vine.

"I had previously participated in two different youth orchestras and absolutely loved the experience," Lam said. "SFSYO is widely regarded as one of, if not the best, youth orchestras in California. As a serious student musician, I value the world-class instruction and the opportunity to rehearse and perform at one of the top venues in the world, Davies Symphony Hall."

A principal viola player for the group, Lam also plays the harp.

Lam explained that her musical journey began at the age of four at the San Ramon Community Center during a small beginner strings class. It was here that her passion for music and performing sprouted.

"I played a 1/16 violin while standing on a piece of cardboard where the proper position for my feet was marked by Sharpies. The blissful exhilaration when all six of us finally learned, started and finished 'Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star' together never faded," Lam said.

"That sheer excitement of taking part in entertaining families who sat at the edges of their seats in anticipation evolved into a desire to entertain, inspire, and tell my stories through my music," she added.

Being a graduating student, Lam is in her final year with the SFSYO and plans to attend college next year. She shared her experience throughout the program.

"We were treated like pre-professional musicians rather than high school students from the start. Aside from traditional musical training, we are expected to be courteous and to carry out our obligations to the entire orchestra in a professional manner," Lam said. "When you're part of an organization like Youth Orchestra, you learn to behave like a contributing member to something much larger than yourself."

In the program, students are mentored by members of the San Francisco Symphony.

Since the founding of the SFSYO in 1981, the group has performed alongside famous artists such as Yo-Yo Ma and Joshua Bell.

"I believe music connects people. I'll forever treasure all the relationships and memories made through music here and I hope to be making new connections wherever I go as a Youth Orchestra alum," Lam said of her time with SFSYO.

To find out more about the SFSYO or purchase tickets, visit

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