Humans of Harker: Beyond the labels

Constance Horng dedicates herself to music and the humanities

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Humans of Harker: Beyond the labels

“Each piece that I play, when I'm playing it, it's more than the music. Every piece has its own historical meaning, especially for classical music. Sometimes the composers were trying to express different sorts of meanings that were relative to the historical context during the time, so I think it's really interesting to study that. Studying music and playing music in relation to history, and especially when I'm on orchestra tours, and being able to play a piece that was composed in that specific country, is extremely cool. For my Mitra topic, I'm doing [research] related to the French Revolution and opera. I've always been interested in the intertwined  nature of history and music,” Constance Horng (12) said.

“Each piece that I play, when I'm playing it, it's more than the music. Every piece has its own historical meaning, especially for classical music. Sometimes the composers were trying to express different sorts of meanings that were relative to the historical context during the time, so I think it's really interesting to study that. Studying music and playing music in relation to history, and especially when I'm on orchestra tours, and being able to play a piece that was composed in that specific country, is extremely cool. For my Mitra topic, I'm doing [research] related to the French Revolution and opera. I've always been interested in the intertwined nature of history and music,” Constance Horng (12) said.

Sara Yen

“Each piece that I play, when I'm playing it, it's more than the music. Every piece has its own historical meaning, especially for classical music. Sometimes the composers were trying to express different sorts of meanings that were relative to the historical context during the time, so I think it's really interesting to study that. Studying music and playing music in relation to history, and especially when I'm on orchestra tours, and being able to play a piece that was composed in that specific country, is extremely cool. For my Mitra topic, I'm doing [research] related to the French Revolution and opera. I've always been interested in the intertwined nature of history and music,” Constance Horng (12) said.

Sara Yen

Sara Yen

“Each piece that I play, when I'm playing it, it's more than the music. Every piece has its own historical meaning, especially for classical music. Sometimes the composers were trying to express different sorts of meanings that were relative to the historical context during the time, so I think it's really interesting to study that. Studying music and playing music in relation to history, and especially when I'm on orchestra tours, and being able to play a piece that was composed in that specific country, is extremely cool. For my Mitra topic, I'm doing [research] related to the French Revolution and opera. I've always been interested in the intertwined nature of history and music,” Constance Horng (12) said.

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Poised and graceful, Constance Horng (12) nods over her bow, signaling the other players in the quartet to start, as she smoothly glides her bow across the strings of her violin, releasing a clear, precise note that rings out into the quad, capturing the attention of the audience for the duration of the piece.

If you attended matriculation, graduation or any orchestra performance in the past few years, you have heard Constance play. Music is a medium for Constance to convey her emotions. Through her violin, she appreciates both the independent and cooperative components of music.

“There’s definitely solo pieces and solo repertoire, and I can express myself individually, but there’s also orchestra, and through orchestra you get to socialize with a lot of different musicians and collaborate in making music collectively,” she said.

As concertmaster, Constance influences the people around her in orchestra through her work ethic and dedication to her music.

“Constance is really determined. You can really tell she’s extremely driven, but she’s very humble about it. She’s definitely kept me on top a lot of the time just by [how] she definitely leads by example,” Constance’s friend Stephanie Xiao (12) said. “For example, I’m in orchestra with her, so she kind of sets this precedent for the rest of us to follow in terms of music or academics even as well.”

Constance’s sister, Sophia Horng (10), admires her in many aspects as well.

“We travel together, we bake together, we eat together, we go to school together, we go to orchestra together, so we basically do everything together. We’re really similar, we do the same things, so for everything I look up to her and kind of follow her,” Sophia said. “I play [the violin] like her now, because since I listen to her play at home all the time, my style is kind of similar to hers.”

Although she tried multiple hobbies when she was younger, Constance has always liked music the most. She started both the violin and piano when she was around four or five and practices every day, her teacher being Chen Zhao, a professor at San Francisco Conservatory of Music. Considering a possible double major in college, Constance hopes to continue to play the violin and piano in the future.

“Performing is like you’re able to see and realize everything that you’ve worked [on] for months and years even,” she said. “You put so much work into a piece of music or multiple pieces of music and then when you’re on stage and there’s people in the audience here to see you and to hear you play, it’s a really rewarding feeling.”

Besides the music itself, Constance recognizes the significance of the history behind every composition she plays. Her interest in the humanities first sparked from music, but her value of the historical side of the arts started after she attended courses at the Stanford Summer Humanities Institute after sophomore and junior year.

“Every piece has its own historical meaning, especially for classical music. Sometimes the composers were trying to express different sorts of meanings that were relative to the historical context during the time, so I think it’s really interesting to study that,” she said. “Studying music and playing music in relation to history, and especially when I’m on orchestra tours, and being able to play a piece that was composed in that specific country, is extremely cool.”

Constance’s Mitra project is the merging of her scholarship and musicality.

“For my Mitra topic, I’m doing [research] related to the French Revolution. I’ve always been interested in the intertwined nature of history and music.”

Donna Gilbert, Constance’s former history teacher, described her devotion to the arts.

“[Constance] has shown a lot of self-conscious reflection about the arts and about the humanities. I know that she wanted really badly to take AP Art History and it wouldn’t fit into her schedule. We tried so hard to try to get it to work for her, and that was so authentic,” Gilbert said. “To me, that showed a lot of organic passion for studying, and that’s sort of something that’s a thread from the first time I met Constance. She really has—and that’s probably why she’s such a beautiful musician—a dedication to detail, to craft and to the arts.”

Throughout the years, Constance has been a part of the California Youth Symphony and the middle school orchestra, and currently is in the upper school orchestra, San Francisco Symphony Youth Orchestra and Silicon Valley Youth Orchestra. Playing either solo or with an orchestra, Constance has performed in Davies Hall, Carnegie Hall and the Chicago Symphony Center to name a few venues, having also gone on tour to Austria and Italy. Besides playing at various places around the world, Constance has enjoyed traveling in of itself since she was young.

“When I was a kid, I traveled a lot of places because [my parents] thought that family vacation was extremely important,” she said. “It opens up your eyes because you see different people or different things that are not normal to you. Different cultures, different food – it’s just really cool to see, even though we all live in the same world, how different lifestyles we [have].”

While she finds interest in other cultures’ ways of life, Constance also values the importance of alone time and introspection.

“At Harker it’s a very competitive and stressful environment, but I think it’s really important sometimes to have some alone time and to think about yourself and take some time off to reflect on life, instead of just focusing on school and all the stressful things in your life,” she said. “Having a higher quality of life by valuing yourself and not just your achievements and accomplishments is really important.”

Whether it is Chinese rap, K-pop or Christmas music, Constance listens to a range of music genres to match her mood.

“When I’m feeling down, I listen to more upbeat music, or when I’m feeling too stressed, I’ll listen to calmer music or classical music,” she said. “[I like music for] the role that it can play on your emotions.”

Behind the image of the concertmaster, brilliant violinist and researcher, Constance is more complex than her labels and is someone who grounds herself through music and chooses to think in the present.

“I think I live in the moment. A lot of people plan their lives and try to get everything done ahead of time and predict what’s going to happen and they try to take control of that, but I think I really like to be in the moment of things and try to enjoy what’s happening in the present,” Constance said.