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How Sam Lai Prepares for His GSYO Season Opener Solo


The classical violinist talks practicing efficiently, performing with his orchestra, and composing his own music.

Sam Lai practices a piece he's in the middle of preparing for college music auditions. "I want to major in music, maybe a double major or dual degree program if possible. The screening process is really competitive."

By Ashley Wang     Photos by Zoë Wong-VanHaren

November 24, 2018

Sam Lai's relationship with music began at a young age. He was only six years old when his parents introduced him to the piano, and he picked up the violin not long after. But he says he hadn't really appreciated music to its fullest extent until very recently, when he learned how to practice efficiently.

Lai is all about efficiency — so much so that he attributes his love for music to it. Whereas Lai used to view violin almost as a chore, tweaking his daily practice regimen to include less aimless repetition and more thoughtfulness opened up opportunities for him to incorporate creativity into his playing. 

Lai soloed for the Golden State Youth Orchestra at their Symphony Season Opener on October 28.

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It makes me a bit nervous to be soloing. The first rehearsal is always really nerve-wracking since you don’t know how the orchestra is going to perform and you don’t know how good you’re going to sound. But it gets better as you get more comfortable with the orchestra.

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Every Sunday I have rehearsal for 3 hours, from 3 to 6 p.m. Sometimes it goes over, just because we have so much repertoire to play. Usually they’ll rehearse my piece for 30 to 40 minutes. 

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Bach Partita No. 2 in D minor - SarabandeSam Lai


This is a piece I’m working on for college auditions. I want to major in music, maybe a double major or dual degree program if possible. The screening process is really competitive.

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Everything changed after I learned to practice efficiently. You have to constantly think when you practice; you can’t just play the same thing over and over again without thinking and expect to improve. It's a skill I really value now.

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Trotting ZebraSam Lai


Music composition is also a huge hobby of mine. Random ideas and tunes just pop into my mind and I write them down in my notation software. The first time I composed something was when I was six years old. I was just playing around on the piano and I came up with this piece called “Trotting Zebra.” This is the beginning of it… 

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What pushes me is my passion for music and my love for my instrument. Recently I realized that I can produce a really nice sound with this instrument. It's no longer a burden for me like it used to be. It's more like, oh, what can I do with this? 

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