Chamber Orchestra’s special guest speaker


CHAMBER’S GUEST SPEAKER, Gunnery Sergeant Karen Johnson, playing the violin over zoom. Mia Costales/News Editor

Mia Costales | News Editor

February 21, 2021

On Wednesday, February 17, SCHS’s chamber orchestra had the honor of having guest speaker Gunnery Sergeant Karen Johnson join the class’s zoom call. Johnson began playing the violin at just four years old and continued her musical pursuit throughout her schooling. After high school, she went on to graduate from the highly acclaimed Juilliard School and earned her master’s degree at the University of Maryland in 2002. In 2011, Johnson joined “The President’s Own” Marine Chamber Orchestra, which she currently is a member of, and was appointed concertmaster in 2015.

The zoom call began with an introduction and overview of what it’s like to be a member of the “The President’s Own” orchestra, where Johnson mentioned multiple performances at The White House, as well as performances for high-profile celebrities.

“One of my favorite things at The White House is playing a piece of music for someone when they come through the foyer that means something to them,” Johnson said. “One of my favorite memories is there was a famous actress that was there and we had a medley of some of her movie themes. It made her stop and she just stood there and listened in awe.”

“THE PRESIDENT’S OWN”: Johnson has had the opportunity to perform for political events and even performs at The White House on a regular basis. Photo taken from @sctritonmusic on Instagram

While listening to her speak, the students were able to take in some very valuable advice. One quote that struck senior Jadyn Blake, in particular, was that you don’t want to practice until it’s perfect, “Practice until it’s relatively easy.”

“She was referring to how she conquered stage fright,” Blake said. “She said that if the piece had been practiced to the point where it was easy for her, she could rely on that ease to settle her nerves. It motivated me to practice more and to put more of an effort to make everything easy.”

Johnson answered many other questions, ranging from how to prepare for a performance to how often she travels for her job. Her inspiring words were definitely comforting to hear for the orchestra students, especially since the orchestras and bands haven’t been able to perform due to the pandemic. After answering some student questions, Johnson also had the chance to play some requested songs for the class. While SCHS’s music department is still able to play together, they haven’t been able to showcase their hard work during concerts or attend any field trips, which is quite a disappointment for the seniors who will be graduating in a couple of months. However, being able to have Gunnery Sergeant Karen Johnson join the Zoom call was an extremely exciting surprise considering the lack of musical events in the past year.

“Meeting Gunnery Sergeant Karen Johnson was an amazing experience as she really helped remind me of why I love playing the violin,” senior Grace Huynh said. “After hearing her perform small excerpts from different pieces, it inspired me to work even harder to improve my own skills.”

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