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WRTI is proud to highlight the accomplishments of young artists in our local communities. You can donate now to champion and support WRTI's education initiatives! Learn more about what inspires and motivates these musicians through the interviews in this series.

WRTI Young Artist Spotlight: Violist Helen Qi

Joseph V. Labolito
Violist Helen Qi

Helen Qi is an 18-year-old* rising freshman at Yale University. She has studied violin since age 5 with Mr. Charles Parker and later switched to viola. Helen is a member of the Temple Music Prep Center for Gifted Young Musicians’ Youth Chamber Orchestra, and toured Iceland with the orchestra this summer. Previously, she participated in theBoston University Tanglewood Institute Young Artists Orchestra. Outside of music, Helen participates in Mock Trial and enjoys visual arts. Helen is the salutatorian of her class at Archmere Academy.

*Helen was 17 at the time of this interview.

10 Questions with Helen Qi

1. What are some differences and similarities between expressing yourself through music and visual arts?

Both music and visual arts are art forms that demand creativity and imagination. They are means of expression that surpass words. The big difference is, as Jean-Michel Basquiat once said: “Art is how we decorate space; Music is how we decorate time.”

2. What was one thing about your instrument that surprised you when you started learning to play?

I started out playing violin and then I switched to viola. I was surprised by the weight of the viola. It is heavy.

3. What’s your favorite thing about Philadelphia?

GO EAGLES! Go Chinatown!

4. What did you enjoy most about taking part in the Icelandic Exchange program?

During our memorable eight-day journey in Iceland, YCO (Temple Music Prep's Youth Chamber Orchestra) musicians had a unique opportunity to make meaningful connections with fellow musicians in Iceland and immerse ourselves in the enchanting Icelandic culture. We played side by side with the students at the Tónskóli Sigursveins music school, exploring a combination of American and Icelandic music. We engaged with local music lovers by playing concerts at Harpa, the Eldheimer museum, and Reykjavík Art Museum Hafnarhús. Everyone came home inspired by this valuable cultural exchange experience. The bonds we formed with our Icelandic friends and the music we shared will shape us as musicians.

Helen Qi and YCO orchestra members performing in Iceland for Icelandic National Day
Geri Huxsoll
Helen Qi and YCO orchestra members performing in Iceland for Icelandic National Day

5. What or who do you consider to be your musical community?

I consider Temple Music Prep my music home. Every Saturday, I go to Philadelphia to attend orchestra and chamber rehearsals. The Temple Prep faculty and staff are dedicated and caring. They created a supportive learning environment that fosters growth and creativity for young musicians. I have made lifelong friends there. We grow together as musicians and individuals. Going to Temple always puts a smile on my face.

6. What was an experience that was impactful to you in your musical journey?

Playing chamber music is probably the most impactful experience in my musical journey. Through chamber music, I have discovered the joy of collaborating closely with a small group of musicians, each contributing their unique perspective. My teacher and chamber coach, Mr. Charles Parker, not only taught us how to play chamber music, but also how to identify problems, communicate through music, and always come prepared — life skills that extend beyond the rehearsal room.

7. How would you describe the sound of the viola in relation to the other string instruments?

The sound of the viola closely resembles the human voice. When you listen to the viola you can hear a wide range of human emotions in the music. It can sound like a person singing or crying.

Violist Helen Qi
Joseph V. Labolito
Violist Helen Qi

8. What’s it like to be a leader in Temple Music Prep’s Youth Chamber Orchestra?

I do not consider myself a leader at Temple. YCO is a small chamber ensemble, and everyone is important. We support each other. We cheer for each other. We achieve things together.

9. Do you have any advice for people just getting started with learning an instrument?

Even a violist will tell you, practice, practice, and practice! Have fun and don’t give up!

10. How do you plan to keep playing or enjoying music as part of your life in the future?

Once a musician, always a musician. Music will always be a part of my life. I plan to actively engage with the vibrant musical community at Yale by participating in orchestra and chamber music.

Helen's Recommended Playlist:

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Lydia Veilleux has worked in music education and arts administration for the past 20 years, and has taught students of all ages in various community settings. As WRTI's Education & Outreach Manager, she oversees educational partnerships, sponsorships, events, and coverage.