Courtesy of Michael Chong
19-year-old Robert McDuffie Center for Strings student Michael Chong is heavily dedicated to his craft. While no one in his family plays a musical instrument, Chong, a sophomore at Mercer’s Townsend School of Music, says music has always been something close to his heart.
“Even though I didn’t really come from a musical family, I still loved music,” Chong said, “I’d sing always sing along to the radio when I was little.”
This summer, Chong attended two different orchestral institutes, the National Orchestral Institute (NOI) and the National Symphony Orchestra Summer Institute (NSOSI). His admittance into these programs was a result of years of hard work and dedication.
Chong began playing the viola in fourth grade at 9 years old. When asked why he took up music, Chong replied, “I just really loved the idea of having the ability to share music with people.”
Chong, who is originally from Alexandria, Virginia, studies viola performance here at Mercer.
As the first person in his family to go to college, Chong has drawn a great deal of inspiration from his teachers over the years.
His professors here at Mercer, as well as his classmates, are always driving him to push himself and become a better musician. It was this drive, dedication and love of his art that led Chong to participate in two orchestral institutes over the summer.
Cong participated in the NOI first, which is held every year by the University of Maryland. Chong described this particular institute as being a “pre-professional” program.
Chong said that he was able to expand his experience with orchestral performance and work with some of the top conductors and musicians in the country.
Afterwards, Chong headed to Washington D.C. to participate in the NSOSI.
“That institute was more geared towards younger musicians and was more of a learning experience than a pre-professional thing,” Chong said.
Attending these two programs helped to equip Chong for what he wants to do most, which is to play in an orchestra professionally. There are several orchestras that Chong would love to play in during his professional career, he said. However, being able to play in the Berlin Philharmonic, a world-renowned, Berlin-based orchestra, has been his dream since he was twelve.
“Music really helped me mature as a person. I don’t know where I’d be without it,” Chong said.
For now, Chong said he is focused on working under the tutelage of professors here at Mercer, with an emphasis on solo and chamber music. From being the first in his family to attend college to gaining admittance into two of the country’s most prestigious orchestral institutes, Chong said he knows the value of hard work and determination.