Joe Wang ’20: a music lover, leader of the Orchestra’s viola section, distinguished soloist on the Concert Hall stage, and inspiring presence in the Deerfield music program.
Having grown up surrounded by music, Wang attributes his artistic beginnings to his older sister, who is a professional musician. He particularly found himself drawn to string instruments when listening to her practice; in the third grade, he begged his parents for a violin, and in the eighth grade, he switched to the viola. These were the beginnings of a long and accomplished musical journey.
Throughout his three years as a Deerfield student, Wang has participated in the Music Service co-curricular every term but one. He has taken many courses in the music discipline, ranging from Advanced Chamber Music to Bands: Winds/Rock/Jazz to Advanced Music Composition and Analysis.
Director of Chamber Music and Orchestra Thomas Bergeron commented on Wang’s open-minded nature and willingness to embrace challenges. “Since Joe first arrived on campus, he has said ‘yes’ to every performance or creative musical opportunity put in front of his. This dedication to become the best and most well-rounded version of his musical self sets the bar for all Deerfield musicians,” he said.
Wang’s interest in expanding his musical horizons can also be seen through his pursuits of playing the electric viola, singing in a baritone quartet, and composing and arranging as a hobby. These activities were all done concurrently with his diligent viola practice, a schedule that may consist of 2-5 hours of practice a day.
Violin and Viola Instructor Anthony Berner said, “His interpretive maturity and his consistent probing of the musical intentions of the composer are unusual gifts in any musician and are particularly rare in someone so young.”
“Joe is a constant reminder that music is an expansive form of expression and should be approached as such,” said Britney Cheung ‘19, a close friend of Wang. “He cares deeply about his craft and recognizes that playing the viola is more than just practicing — he is constantly looking for ways to innovate and understand music.”
This deep appreciation for music has only developed since his time at boarding school. Wang described his Deerfield experiences as having opened his eyes to all that music can offer, having been immersed in a place with top-notch facilities and accomplished peers. “Before, music was just something I did. But at Deerfield, I’ve learned there’s a kind of complex, mystical side to it where it’s very soul-based,” Wang said.
Wang continues to admire the way art transcends beyond a rudimentary basis of life. “You don’t need art to survive, you don’t need music to live, but these aspects of life create culture. They progress humanity,” said Wang. “What inspires me about music is the idea of going beyond the surface level of things and pouring your effort and soul and time into something that has the power to affect someone’s emotions and the overall quality of the world.”
Next fall, Wang will attend Yale University. As a science enthusiast, he is considering pursuing a path of medicine; however, he also hopes to continue playing music for the rest of his life, and he plans to eventually apply to the Yale School of Music graduate program, an institution offering one of the most globally elite educations in music.
Wang described the uncertainties of the current COVID-19 crisis as a significant factor in determining his future. It is difficult to predict how the professional music world will emerge from the pandemic; he knows for certain, however, that both academics and music mean the world to him. “My hope is to not let either one go until the very last second.”