While most students were packing giant cartons and lugging futons to house storage rooms, Joseph I. Lin '00 was practicing his violin.
During the last week of school, Lin's Mather House roommate answered the phone amidst a background of vibrato and double stops, instead of stereotypical pop music.
This year, Lin was a soloist with Harvard's Mozart Society Orchestra and the professional Boston Symphony Orchestra. During reunion week he is performing a solo during Harvard reunion night with the Boston Pops at Symphony Hall.
"It becomes not only something you enjoy but also a responsibility," says Lin, who has been playing since he was four years old. While at Harvard he has become somewhat of a musical celebrity on campus, seeking out opportunities for solo and chamber work, as he has his whole life.
The violinist says his parents made the initial decision that he should learn to play the violin, but he began to love it and progressed on his own initiative during high school.
While his enjoyment of the music played a major role in Lin's increasing virtuosity, he says competition with his peers played an equal part.
"I guess at that young age you start realizing that you can sort of compete with other people-- there's that appeal there--so part of it was just enjoying playing the music but part of it was being able to be out there and to be able to hold your own, knowing you could play on the level of people outside just the local scene," he says.
"But I was a little bit of a naive high schooler there, and I think over the years it's been less of it just me wanting to succeed in music but me actually loving the music that I'm playing," Lin adds.
Graduation from high school meant graduation from his training in the pre-college division at the Julliard School, a Saturday program with an orchestra, private lessons and chamber music work. Lin has continued his chamber work here, playing with the Brattle Street players, a new campus chamber group, and the Boston-based chamber orchestra Metamorphosen.
"You've been given this talent and if you can make a difference for other people by using this talent and developing it then it's certainly something worth spending your time and energy on," Lin says.
Lin's Harvard solo career began when he won the Mozart Society Orchestra's (MSO) first-year concerto competition. Soon his name appeared on posters advertising campus performances--his skill well-known, Lin could draw an audience.
He plays with chamber groups and gives recitals but is not committed to any specific campus orchestras. Lin says the highlight of his musical experience was playing with the Boston Symphony Orchestra last month.
The orchestra was looking for a younger soloist for a concert celebrating conductor Seiji Ozawa's 25th anniversary with the orchestra and had obtained a tape of Lin playing a solo with the Harvard-Radcliffe Orchestra without Lin's knowledge. Artistic administrator Anthony Fogg gave him a call.
"It sort of happened without me doing anything, which was really neat," he says.
This summer he will play at the Marlboro chamber music festival in Vermont before performing the Brahms double concerto with the Orchestra of Saint Luke's at the Caramoor Festival, which he describes as a smaller version of Tanglewood.
Large audiences make these performances special, Lin said, noting the disparity between the mostly-filled Sanders Theater MSO concert and the 3,000-attendee Boston Symphony concert, held at the Reggie Lewis Arena athletic center in Roxbury.
"I like big supportive audiences. I actually don't like playing for nobody or not having that support from the audience," he said.
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