Angela Sun’s cello journey

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Graphic illustration by Sophie Au; photos used with permission of Angela Sun

Angela Sun is currently the principal cellist of the San Francisco Symphony Youth Orchestra and the cellist of Quartet Cabaletta as a part of the organization Young Chamber Musicians.

Elizabeth Cheng

For senior Angela Sun, the cello is a passion, a dream career, a ticket to some of the most prestigious music schools in the world. First introduced to the instrument when she was 8 years old, Sun now surrounds herself with the cello’s sonorous sounds everyday, constantly studying pieces and listening to professional cellists’ exuberant performances. 

Sun is currently the principal cellist of the San Francisco Symphony Youth Orchestra and the cellist of Quartet Cabaletta as a part of the organization Young Chamber Musicians. Sun was selected as one of 32 students in the world to attend Yellow Barn Young Artists Program, a 3-week chamber-intensive camp in Vermont that she will attend in the summer of 2022. She has won numerous awards and competitions, including first place in the string division at the MTAC VOCE state competition in 2019 and the Alan M. Keys Instrumental Award at the Pacific Musical Society Competition in 2021.

It has taken Sun countless years of hard work to perform in masterclasses for acclaimed cellists or win state competitions. When her mother first signed her up for cello group lessons at only 8 years old, Sun immediately knew that she loved playing the instrument and wanted to continue. 

​ “When I first started, I simply decided that I liked it,” Sun said. “I just knew that I wanted to become a cellist — I never really wanted to do anything else.”

But it wasn’t until listening to Bach’s cello suites on Youtube that she discovered the potential for the quality of music she could play. Sun began studying the instrument with a private teacher in the fourth grade and is now under the tutelage of two teachers.

“One of my teachers would tell me a lot about her orchestra life and what it’s like to be a professional musician,” Sun said.

During middle school, Sun continued regular private lessons and played in different youth orchestras.

After joining YO, Sun began playing on a more expensive and high-quality cello, loaned to her from the San Francisco Symphony. Initially, it was difficult to become accustomed to, but the heightened sensitivity and delicacy of sound of the loaned cello made it much more enjoyable to play than her previous instrument.

As co-principal cellist of her orchestra, Sun leads her section, mainly deciding certain bowings and fingerings or advising on the different methods to tackle a difficult passage. During her first year in the symphony as a sophomore, more experienced students helped her learn about music schools and future musical pathways. She has made many close friends through connecting with people who have similar passions and goals.

“I relate to my friends from YO more because they’re also applying to music schools, unlike most of the students at Lynbrook,” Sun said.

After Sun and YO violinist Eunseo Oh realized that they were both struggling with focus during practice sessions, they began to practice together on Zoom calls for hours at a time to keep each other in check while sharing technical advice

“One thing that’s really special about her playing is her beautiful, rich tone and vibrato,” Oh said. “I like listening to her play lyrical passages because her tone is really passionate, like a golden sound.”

I just knew that I wanted to become a cellist — I never really wanted to do anything else.”

— Angela Sun, Senior

During her sophomore year, Sun began practicing more than ever, entering and winning both local and state competitions and attending prestigious summer camps such as Tanglewood Music Festival and Boulder Cello Festival.

“Before my sophomore year, I was really behind since I was never someone who practiced a lot,” Sun said. “I had to step up my game to win competitions and get into a good music school.”

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, Sun nearly stopped entering musical contests. She disliked auditions through recordings because minute mistakes were inexcusable and Zoom lowered sound quality. 

In her senior year, Sun began live auditions again, especially to apply to music schools. Live auditions have helped her rediscover her passion for the instrument — the beautiful sound that first captivated her at only 8 years old.

Sun also recently performed a duet with her private teacher at a #stopAAPIhate event to honor Vicha Ratanapakdee, an 84-year-old Thai-American who was killed in a racially motivated attack.

She dreams of becoming an orchestral musician, but for now, Sun is preparing to continue her music career in college while continuing to enjoy pieces by her favorite composers, whether it’s the raw emotion of Shostakovich or the elegant beauty of Brahms.