Humans of Harker: Listening and learning

Jeffrey Yang (12) grows through music and community service

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Mark Hu

“What I learned through Tri-M [is that] the idea of community service is often more complex than it should be. I think it's something a lot more simple. Community service to me isn't about solving Earth's greatest problems; it's just finding something that resonates with me and doing that because it brings me joy, and through that, it brings other people joy too,” Jeffrey Yang (12) said.

Surrounded by vacant chairs and music stands in the center of the quiet orchestra room usually jam-packed with musicians, Jeffrey Yang (12) sets up his cello. He pulls over an endpin anchor to support his instrument and settles down into his chair, preparing himself. He lifts his bow and begins to play. Eyes closed, he expertly controls his fingers as they move up and down the neck of his cello. As he finishes his piece, a clear, sharp note lingers in the almost empty room with just Dr. David Hart, his orchestra teacher and advisor, remaining.

“[Jeffrey’s] always been very responsible and reliable, and well beyond his years in professionalism. I’ve watched him grow into this amazing musician. He always had high levels of musicianship, and what I hear now is a very mature cello player who has matched his leadership skills with his musicianship of playing,” Dr. Hart said.

Music has always been a part of Jeffrey’s life. Ever since joining the lower school string ensemble in fourth grade, he has stuck to cello while befriending fellow musicians, especially during annual trips taken by the orchestra.

“It’s nice especially because my class has four or five other cellists, so we’ve seen each other grow as cellists and students of Harker,” Jeffrey said. “In freshman year, we went to New York, then Chicago, Los Angeles, and this year, New York again. It’s nice to bond with friends and play on some cool stages.”

Throughout his time in orchestra, Jeffrey has made new friends and gone through new experiences but always with his friends by his side.

“When I first met Jeffrey, he seemed like a shy person, but when I got to know him, he’s a lot more energetic than what meets the eye,” Rakesh Nori (12), a close friend in orchestra, said. “Being with him for those days [in New York] made me see an aspect of him that you normally don’t get to see with someone.”

As he creates memories through music, Jeffrey also finds connections with the rest of the world around him, bonding and spending time with all his friends.

“Jeffery’s a very multifaceted person; he’s very caring and perceptive and truly cares for the people around him whether that’s his friends or his family. He enjoys life a lot and tries to live in the moment,” Cynthia Chen (12), who grew closer to him during their eleventh-grade biology class, said. “He’s always questioning things that many people might take for granted, and he really tries to dig deep for answers to even the simplest of things.”

No matter how they’re feeling, Jeffrey’s friends know that he’s always there for them no matter the situation.

“The one word I would use to describe him is definitely selfless; he really cares about others and is a good friend on checking up on how you’re doing and always hearing your problems or issues,” Rakesh said. “He’s really loyal and honest and is self-aware about everything and making sure what other people are feeling about his actions.”

Caring for others has always been a part of Jeffrey’s life, and after deciding to give back to music, he co-founded the Tri-M Music Honor Society to spread his love for music. Receiving guidance from Dr. Hart, who is also the club’s advisor, Jeffrey guided the society to perform at various events in the past few years from retirement homes to hospitals. 

“What I learned through Tri-M [is that] the idea of community service is often more complex than it should be. I think it’s something a lot more simple. Community service to me isn’t about solving Earth’s greatest problems; it’s just finding something that resonates with me and doing that because it brings me joy, and through that, it brings other people joy too,” Jeffrey said.

After first meeting Jeffrey in the middle school orchestra and watching Tri-M grow under Jeffrey’s leadership, Dr. Hart sees his potential as not just a strong cello player but also a “humble leader.”

“I hope he really goes after what he’s passionate in, and that music stays a key part of his life because I see the impact it has on others, and I just know that he’s going to be successful at whatever he chooses to do,” Dr. Hart said. “He has that level of commitment and focus and follows through with what he believes in.”

Ultimately, listening and taking in everything first has shaped his experiences through both music and his daily life. 

¨I try to live by general respect for everyone around me by not trying to speak for them but understand them first. That’s my principle rule: understanding people before making judgments,” Jeffrey said.