One Herndon High School student will have the chance of a lifetime when she travels to Beijing, China for one week next April as part of a select orchestral unit. Hannah Green, a 15-year-old sophomore violist, from Herndon, was selected to play in the International Honors Orchestra. The orchestra is made up of students from around the country and around the world. To be eligible, students must have attended one of 13 international schools.
"It's a tremendous honor," said Green. "I can't tell you how excited I am about the trip and the chance to live with other students and musicians from around the world."
Green says she is especially looking forward to the challenge of blending her sound with those of the other nearly 60 musicians. "There aren't that many people [in the orchestra]," she said. "It will be just great to play music at a higher level than I am used to."
Though she was born in Maryland and raised her entire life in Herndon, Green, whose father Chris, works for the State Department, lived in London for three years beginning in fifth grade. During her family's stay in England, Green attended the American School of London.
Only one year before, while Green was fourth grader at Dranesville Elementary School, she was introduced to the viola. "It's similar to the violin, but it is not the violin," the Herndon High sophomore said. "It's a deeper and richer sound. I loved it, right away."
<b>WHILE IN LONDON</b>, Green's interest in her stringed instrument of choice increased dramatically. But her parents credit Fairfax County Public School's emphasis on introductory music instruction with igniting the spark in their daughter's interest in music. "She certainly didn't get it from me," her dad said. "I can't even read music."
Her mom, Susan, agreed. "It wasn't me either," she said. "I can't carry a note to save my life. But she loves it and she is good at it. We are very proud."
Despite her own musical shortcomings, Susan Green said she always wanted her four children to be exposed to music. Her son Russell plays the base clarinet and another daughter, Chelsea, plays the violin. "I wanted them to at least try," she said. "But there has never been any pressure to stay with it."
Green's parents said it is important for their daughter to try and keep a balance between music, sports, academics and a social life. "We aren't stage parents," Susan Green said. "With Hannah, we've never been worried. She is so good at managing her life, she is such a perfectionist."
Green thanked her parents for their role in her rise as a musician. "If you are overly forced to play, it can really drive you away."
In addition to her class with Herndon High symphonic orchestra teacher Ron Dillard, Green estimates that she practices at home about four to six hours a week. On Saturday mornings, Green, who also runs track at Herndon, has practice with her private viola instructor Raymond Scavelli. Scavelli recently retired from the National Symphony Orchestra after 40 years of service.
"I don't come cheap and my students know not to come into my studio unprepared," Scavelli said. "Hannah knows she is dealing with a professional and she always comes in prepared."
For her part, Green says her weekly one and a half hour lessons are fifty percent philosophy discussion. "He teaches me about music and he teaches me about life," she said of her instructor.
"I look at my time with my younger students especially, as a chance to impart some wisdom and life lessons," Scavelli said. "I think, since it isn't a lecture from their parents, they might actually listen to me."
While Green admits she is very organized and a perfectionist, she credits Scavelli with instilling her with a greater sense of discipline. "With him, you have to be focused and disciplined," she said. "Sure, there are some Friday nights where I wish I was out having fun, but I know I have to be in Manassas early Saturday morning. It's practice, practice, practice."
<b>THE PRACTICE HAS PAID OFF</b> and come April, Green will jet off to China. Around 30 violist players tried out for one of only eight viola chairs in the International Honors Orchestra. "It took me 56 years to get to China and Hannah is going next year," said Scavelli, who along with Dillard helped with Green's try-out tape. "Being one of only eight viola players is a tremendous honor — no doubt about it."
Susan Green said she would love to go with her daughter on the week-long musical trek, but the $5,000 price tag is a little too steep, she thinks. "I am a little unnerved at her going all the way there by herself," she said. "So we will see."
While she waits to play her viola in China, Green will continue playing for the orchestra at Herndon High where, as a sophomore, she is already first chair. China will not be Green's first global musical adventure. While she lived in London, she played in Belgium under the guidance of the director of the world-renowned Vienna Boy's Choir. During her freshman year at Herndon, the orchestra traveled to Toronto and Orlando to perform.
"Fairfax County and Herndon High especially really puts a fantastic emphasis on music," said Chris Green. "It is a testament to their dedication and it has been great for Hannah."
While Green is enjoying playing music right now, she is not, yet, sure she wants become a professional musician after she graduates college. The AP student thinks she might like to a writer, a Spanish translator or a psychologist. "Music is a tough business, you really have to know if that is what you want to do," she said. "I don't know that, yet."