Performing Arts

Performing arts spotlight: Abigail Ahn says shutdown helped make her a better musician

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While the shutdown of many sectors of society last spring in Michigan due to COVID-19 caused a lot of difficulties, H.H. Dow High student Abigail Ahn found a silver lining: more time to pour into her musical pursuits of violin and piano.

“The quarantine brought a much slower and more flexible lifestyle that really allowed me to invest more time in developing my technique, and because of that, I came out a dramatically different musician than when I came into it,” Ahn said, referring to the period from mid-March, when school buildings were closed, to the end of August, when in-person instruction was able to resume. “I was able to really focus on playing. There were a lot fewer distractions.”

This school year, Ahn, now a senior, is enrolled in the hybrid option of learning partly at home and partly at school.

“So that has definitely continued to allow me to spend more time practicing as well,” said Ahn, who has played in the symphony orchestra for four years and the honors orchestra for three years at Dow.

Symphony orchestra, Ahn explained, is strictly a school commitment and is a larger ensemble, while honors orchestra is extracurricular, includes only stringed instruments and requires a separate audition.

She said the orchestra ensembles have been an invaluable support for her.

“I feel very grateful to have been a part of the Dow High orchestra,” Ahn said. “It’s a very unique environment. We’re all wanting to be the best musicians we can be. (But at the same time), we really are each other’s cheerleaders. My fellow musicians have been there cheering for me. And when I experience disappointment, I feel a lot of comfort from them.”

Dow High orchestra director Amanda Thoms is grateful to have been Ahn’s instructor for the last seven years.

“Abigail is among the best musicians it has been my pleasure to teach. For seven years, she has risen to every challenge I have been able to give her because she is both a talented and hard-working violinist. I have been lucky to have her in class for so long,” Thoms said.

Music has been almost a lifelong pursuit for Ahn, who started taking piano lessons at age 4 and took up violin at about the age of 9.

“My parents started me in piano because they knew that would be a good foundation for music for me,” she said. Then, in fourth grade, it was her own choice to try the violin.

Interestingly, Ahn said a violin can last “for generations.” She got her current violin two years ago and plans to keep it for the rest of her life.

Ahn intends to major in materials science and engineering at an as-yet-undecided university, and to continue her musical pursuits at the same time.

“I am really looking forward to becoming involved in orchestra in the future. It will be a great way to connect with people at the university and on into the future,” Ahn said.

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