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York student viola player selected for Colorado All State Orchestra

Sebastian S. H., who plays the viola in Mapleton’s Orchestra, ended 2022 on a high note. The York International School senior was just selected for the Colorado All State Orchestra after auditioning in November. He spent much of the last two months practicing the Orchestra’s music, and is joining his fellow student musicians at a special clinic in Fort Collins. The event will culminate with a concert on Feb. 4, at the city’s University Center for the Arts. 

A student plays the viola

“I was shocked! It was super cool,” he said about receiving the news. “It was my first audition for the Orchestra, and I had the expectation I would try my hardest to make it in.” 

And he had reason to expect success, as this was only the latest crescendo of his career. He has played with handful of local orchestras – once even named a principal chair. And, this past February, he performed at one of the world's most famous music halls, Carnegie Hall, for the 2022 High School Carnegie Hall Honors Performance Series, after rehearsing with master conductors. 

Sebastian has played the viola for eight years, typically practicing for up to four hours a day. It wasn’t his original instrument of choice, though. He comes from a family of musicians, and, among them, his sister and grandfather played the violin. Sebastian originally wanted to join them but was told since there were too many violinists in the family, he should switch things up. So, he took up the instrument’s larger, lower-pitched cousin instead.  

He said getting the opportunity to play the instrument in fifth grade was life-changing, but he didn’t really start having fun until ninth grade.  

“I love listening to music and seeing how all the different parts work together, the harmony, and how they just make a perfect piece at the end,” he said. “And I think the idea of teamwork and inspiring others through music is so cool.” 

Mapleton Orchestra Director Jennifer Chaplin has been with the district for 10 years and said Sebastian is the first orchestra student in her tenure to be named to All State.  

A view from behind as Sebastian plays the viola

“He has given other students someone to look up to and realize ‘Hey, hard work does pay off,’” she said. “He’s just an exceptional student who tries to make the best possible use of his time and has helped our program grow.” 

York’s School Director Eriksen Van Etten is also incredibly proud of Sebastian and continues to be impressed. 

“It’s so neat to see a young person finding a passion and having so much joy in participating in it,” he said. “We’ve had students with other passions achieve great things, but this is by far the farthest I’ve seen a student go be honored for their abilities with an instrument.” 

Sebastian said he wants to play for the rest of his life and eventually intends on attending either the University of Denver or University of Colorado Boulder to pursue a degree in music performance or music education.