Haddonfield Memorial High School freshman Kai Freeman has been playing violin for 10 years, since he was 4 years old and his mother saw him practicing with chopsticks.
His efforts and diligence have paid off: Freeman has earned positions in two esteemed orchestras this year. He is one of about 144 violinists to qualify for the New Jersey All-State Honors Orchestra and one of 48 accepted.
After playing for so long, he is most excited to meet other people from the state and play great music with them.
“The level is extremely high, especially in North Jersey,” Freeman noted, “so I’m very excited to work with them.”
He will also play in Switzerland this summer with the Verbier Festival Academy and Orchestra, one of two American high-school violinists to perform in the international group. Freeman will be one in around 60 students ages 15 to 18 coached by “established players from around the world” participating in the three-week program.
Freeman is a member of the Asian American Culture Club who regularly plays with the Philadelphia Youth Orchestra. He is also the recipient of the Bruce Montgomery Foundation’s Springboard Grant, and earned an advanced study scholarship from the Settlement Music School. He is also part of Carnegie Hall’s National Youth Orchestra (NYO2) program.
What Freeman loves most about playing violin is meeting and playing with other musicians.
“When you’re playing with other people, you’re really working as a group,” he explained. “You’re a team working towards a collective goal of making music, and I’ve learned throughout that to be a team player and work with other people, gain those social skills and work together.
“If you’re just the only person and you can’t learn from other people around you, it’s just all by yourself,” he added. “There’s nothing to really base yourself off of.”
To get to where he is, Freeman has practiced four to five hours a day.
“My private teacher, Ms. Amy Oshiro-Morales of the Philadelphia Orchestra, has been an amazing help,” he noted. “Ever since I was little, she’s been giving me absolutely incredible lessons. She really is how I’ve been able to grow so much from when I started to where I am now.
“I think the majority of it really goes to her credit.”
Freeman hopes to become a professional orchestral musician in the future to explore more places and meet more people. For those just starting out, he shared two pieces of advice.
“See if you really like it, and if you really want to do it, keep going and go as far as you can,” he advised. “Work hard and put a little bit of time in every day, because it will add up.”