Isaac Johnson didn’t know what to expect when he traveled hundreds of miles from Pine Island, Minnesota to Interlochen Arts Camp in June. It was not going to be a typical summer: sleeping until noon and eating tons of junk food. However, as he made his way past the rustic cabins to his 8 a.m. World Youth Symphony Orchestra (WYSO) rehearsal, he realized exactly what he wants to do for the rest of his life.
After practicing hard for his audition and exceeding expectations that won him an Emerson Scholarship, which covers all costs of camp, Isaac earned one of the top spots in the renowned youth orchestra. For three hours every day, he works with other talented musicians from around the world under the direction of WYSO conductor Jung Ho Pak and several legendary guest artists.
“I’m really happy I made it into WYSO. I’m actually quite surprised,” says Isaac. “These kids are so talented. I thought we sounded ready for a performance on the first day. But then Jung Ho took the piece apart and made it even better. It is such a professional experience.”
Making it into WYSO is no joke. The competitive process involves students learning multiple college level excerpts and auditioning every two weeks to keep their spots. Jung Ho Pak works with these talented musicians to ensure the high performance level of the orchestra. “He is really inspiring. He strives for such perfection and is so energetic, one of the best conductors I’ve ever had,” adds Isaac.
As part of the low brass section, Isaac lives in the back of the orchestra. But as few as there are, the four players can blast right through the crowd during their shining moments. “We all try our best. It’s great to play with people that are striving for the same thing,” Isaac continues.
Isaac spends a lot of his morning in WYSO rehearsals but he also takes other classes including brass ensemble and brass technique. His favorite parts about Interlochen are working with the unique and incredible guest conductors and being able to practice privately and conveniently on campus. After all the practice hours, rehearsals and extra lessons, Isaac still finds time to enjoy camp with his friends.
He hopes to attend Northwestern University and become a professional trombonist in an orchestra.
“It was truly a great opportunity to study music and I’m really glad I came,” says Isaac. From the moment he saw WYSO perform in “Collage” for the first time last year to actually being in it the following year, Isaac has redefined his idea of a typical summer.