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Meet the 2024 Youth Orchestra Concerto Competition Winner: Micky Chyu

By Eric Dundon

The St. Louis Symphony's Youth Orchestra, or YO, was founded in 1970 by Conductor Laureate Leonard Slatkin and is comprised of young musicians from throughout the bi-state region. The YO boasts over 2,000 alumni, three of whom are currently members of the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra. Some have gone on to careers in professional orchestras, while many go on to be leaders in a variety of other fields.

Each year, YO musicians have the opportunity to compete in the YO’s concerto competition. After multiple rounds of auditions, the winner performs with the YO at its second concert. In 2024, Micky Chyu, a senior at Ladue High School, was declared the winner and will perform the Erich Wolfgang Korngold’s Violin Concerto at the YO’s final concert of the season on April 20 at UMSL’s Touhill Performing Arts Center.

This interview was edited for clarity and length.

Micky Chyu

SLSO: What are your earliest memories of playing the violin?

Micky Chyu: I first started violin when I was six. There was someone in my class who played, and I thought it looked fun and I wanted to try it out myself. My first teacher was Nora Teipen, and she instilled a love for music in me. I grew up practicing every day, so it was part of my daily routine from the beginning, and it became a large part of my life I feel like ever since I started.


SLSO: What was your relationship with music growing up?

Chyu: My mom would always play my Suzuki CDs in the car, so I was always listening to music. I remember there was one Christmas when my mom got me two CDs. One of them was Hilary Hahn and one of them was Joshua Bell. We would play those CDs all the time.


SLSO: What was it like to audition for the St. Louis Symphony Youth Orchestra for the first time?

Chyu: The very first time I auditioned for the YO, I was a rising sixth grader. I wasn't accepted that first time, but made it to the final round. I remember thinking that that was the scariest thing I had ever experienced at that point in my life so far. I feel like making the final round was my first real accomplishment in my violin studies.

SLSO: What will you remember about playing next to other young musicians that have the same passion for music that you do?

Chyu: In my first season, my main observation was how fast everyone was learning their music, which in my case it seemed fast. That first year, I realized the need to work hard.  As I advanced into a leadership role, I learned to take responsibility of reaching out to people, letting other musicians in my section know that I can give them help if they need fingerings or questions about bowing. I also learned to be incredibly sure about my preparation by the first rehearsal. I also learned the importance of getting my music learned as soon as possible, getting my fingerings in, listening to recordings and making my role in the YO a priority. My biggest takeaway from my years in the YO is that collaboration is really important when it comes to music.


SLSO: You’ve worked with conductors including Gemma New, Stephanie Childress, and Leonard Slatkin. What has working with the YO conducting leadership been like as you've gone throughout the program?

Chyu: It's been an incredible experience because we've had so many great conductors and since they have different styles of leadership, it's been interesting to see how the orchestra responds. As I began to sit closer to the front as the years went by, my experience with conducting has evolved.


SLSO: Do you have any standout moments from your time in the YO?

Chyu: For me, definitely playing next to [SLSO Concertmaster] David Halen for performances of [Pyotr Ilyirch Tchaikovsky’s] Francesca Da Rimini. That was incredible. That was one of my most valuable experiences in the YO—to observe his tone, and especially the volume of sound he was making and the power that was coming from his instrument. I tried to mirror that in my playing.


SLSO: You will perform Korngold’s Violin Concerto at the April 20 concert. Why did you choose this concerto?

Chyu:  Honestly, it’s what I had ready! It's a concerto that I've been working on for my college auditions because I'm a senior this year. It's also my favorite piece that I've ever played. I think it suits my sound well. I love how powerful it is, but also how it can be very tender in moments. There's a lot of contrast between different movements.


SLSO:  What are your future plans?

Chyu: I'm attending the Colburn Conservatory of Music [in Los Angeles] next fall, majoring in violin. I'll be studying with Robert Lipsett, so I'm super excited for that. Right now, my focus is on becoming the best violinist I can be, and then probably looking at grad school after that. I'll be playing for the rest of my life.


Eric Dundon is the SLSO's Public Relations Director.


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