Eighth grader Kwanyun Loo has played the cello since he was 4 years old.
The Rosa Middle School student performs with his schools orchestra, and for the past several months, has been practicing Tchaikovsky’s “Pezzo Capriccioso op. 62” and his “Variations on a Rococo Theme op. 33” to prepare for three performances next month.
Loo describes the Rococo variation as a very delicate piece of music that requires a lot of attention to detail.
“It’s not like a meat and potatoes music, where you go all out and try to play everything,” he explained. “This piece requires a lot of grace and requires knowing when to phrase things beautifully and knowing how not to put everything in.”
Pezzo Capriccioso was written during a difficult time in the composer’s life, resulting in a more emotional piece, according to Loo.
“The beginning sounds depressed and angry … but the middle is light and happy, like a stage of anger where you’re like, ‘I’m better now, no longer angry,'” Loo pointed out. “And then at the end, it switches back to a very emotional and very unsettling piece of music, very emotionally unstable. At the very end, it’s very light.”
Loo is inspired by cellists Yo-Yo Ma, Dmitri Shostakovich and Jacqueline Mary du Pré. He’s a student of Amy Barston, also a cellist, and has learned from teachers Alex Veltman, Clancy Newman and Gloria DePasquale. Loo also cites his school orchestra teacher.
“The way she’s able to pull everyone with all different levels of playing together is fantastic,” he noted.
Loo also plays with his older brother Kwanchi – a senior at Cherry Hill East – in the Back to Bach Project, where the pair and other young musicians take their music to elementary schools, libraries and community organizations to help foster a love for the arts among the younger generation.
Loo won the Elmer and Louis Menges Scholarship two years ago and has performed for the Heifetz Institute’s 2022 and 2023 summer programs. He’s also a regular with the Philadelphia Youth Orchestra, Settlement Music School’s Trowbridge Advanced Study Quartet and the Philadelphia Music Alliance for Youth.
Loo tries to practice two to three hours a day and focuses on his repertoire.
“I really think that in order to improve, it’s really just practice, practice, practice,” he acknowledged. “The more practice you get in, the better. I try to practice a lot and also make it very efficient, so I’m not just playing through my piece, but what are the parts that don’t sound so good with my piece and how do I make those parts sound good?”
Although much of the practice is done alone – sometimes with accompaniment – Loo is excited to play with a full orchestra in February. His performances will include the Pezzo Capriccioso with the Lansdowne Symphony Orchestra on Sunday, Feb. 11 at 3 p.m.; the Main Line Symphony Orchestra on Friday, Feb. 23 at 8 p.m.; and Variations on a Rococo Theme with the Old York Road Symphony Orchestra on Saturday, Feb. 24.
As the winner of the Old York Road Symphony Orchestra’s 2023 Young Artist Competition, Loo will perform at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 24, at Abington Middle School in Abington, Pennsylvania.