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December 09, 2023

Music in My Life: Sherry Hong, Violin

Tell us about your family.

I am an only child of immigrant parents, coming to the U.S. from Taiwan when I was not yet 2 years old. My parents grew up loving music but never had the opportunity to study formally. As self-taught musicians, I grew up hearing my mom play electric organ and singing folk tunes with my dad on guitar.

When did you start playing the violin?

I started playing the violin at 3 years of age. Despite a very short stint on viola when I was 6, violin remains my sole instrument.

What do you enjoy about being part of the ISO?

Something that I find special about the ISO is the camaraderie and friendships that are built from sharing the stage together. Many of us count one another as dear friends, and as we continue to grow and add new musicians to the fold, it is a wonderful feeling to create artistry together onstage and share that joy offstage as well.

What do you enjoy doing when you are not performing?

I love cooking and baking, exploring different cuisines, and learning about food science. I am an avid sports fan and enjoy playing golf. I enjoy reading fiction and nonfiction, with a special interest in philosophy and cookbooks. My love for film is endless, from Altman and Lynch to Burton and the Coen Brothers. . . and everything between. Musical theatre is also near and dear to my heart. I performed in musicals in high school and that inner kid always comes alive during Yuletide!

What are you looking forward to during the 23–24 season

Many things! The Music of Strauss in January hits all the notes (pun intended) for me. Strauss’ tone poems and the scope of his works truly feature the orchestra as a powerful instrument. I love the Uncharted Series. I grew up listening to more popular music than classical so these musical fusions spark many different parts of my brain and my heart. I must also mention the Beethoven Violin Concerto in February to be performed by Augustin Hadelich, with whom we love to make music with.

What is something people would be surprised to learn about you?

I do not hold a degree in music. I went to the University of Michigan for one year as a violin performance major, left after two semesters, and actually quit violin for 14 months. I worked in a few different industries including marketing and hospitality, but ultimately returned to the violin to play in the Civic Orchestra of Chicago for two years while working at Sullivan’s Steakhouse in Chicago. I moved to Paris for a year, taking lessons at a private school and playing chamber music with musicians and international expats, while exploring all facets of Parisian life. After freelancing for a couple years back in Chicago, I won the ISO position and have lived here since 2007.

What do you like best about the Yuletide Celebration?

What I love about Yuletide is the feeling of homecoming and sharing the stage with so many talent- ed performers in multiple disciplines. The Yuletide family is usually a mix of veterans and newcom- ers, and the dynamic of performing a 4-week run versus a weekend concert series presents both challenges and opportunities as artists. The thought of someone experiencing Yuletide for the first time and seeing joy and wonder in the faces of our audiences is truly heartwarming and rewarding!