Musician goes from lawn to stage at SPAC

Nisky native plays viola with Philadelphia Orchestra

Niskayuna native Jonathan Chu said he remembers summers spent on the lawn at Saratoga Performing Arts Center watching the performance of the Philadelphia Orchestra. Now he is on stage with the orchestra.

I remember going to see them at SPAC when I was younger and sitting on the lawn watching them, and I never thought I would be playing with them, said Chu, violist with the orchestra. "Playing with the orchestra is like a dream come true."

Chu started to play the violin at 5 years old, taking after his older brother who had been playing for a number of years. He even took lessons from the same teacher as his brother.

Some children would go to soccer practice or some other sport, but Chu said it was his aspiration to make music his career.

"It really wasn't my conscious decision. ... I just kind of played it, and it was something that I did," said Chu. "As I grew older I enjoyed it more and more."

For several years, Chu went to the summer festival Meadowmount near Plattsburg while in high school. This is where he also met a professor from Vanderbilt University.

Even though Chu was interested in music, applying for a conservatory seemed too focused for him at the time. In high school, he took AP classes and enjoyed math and English too. This led him to double major in music and economics, receiving bachelor's degrees in both fields. Music continued to be his main passion though.

After Vanderbilt, Chu decided to apply to The Julliard School for an intensive focus on music study to receive his master's degree. The environment of Julliard allowed him to grow in his music passion and technique with a community of talented students. Carnegie Hall was also only a 10-block walk from the campus.

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