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'It's my passion'

International student takes aim at New England Conservatory in Boston

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February 03, 2010 - Atlas Twp.- Inside the top of 17-year-old South Korea-born Helen Lee's black violin case is a family photo, etchings created by her sister, and other memories of her home, a world away from mid-Michigan.

Lee, an international student currently attending Genesee Christian School in Burton as a junior, hopes to continue her studies in classical violin in the United States.

"It's my passion," said Lee. "You just can't play by notes, you put feeling and emotion into the music. You express what the composer of the music was trying to say—it's more than just notes on the page."

Lee came to the United States in 2008 and attended Bad Axe High School as a foreign exchange student. Her host father was pastor of the Bad Axe Missionary Church. That's where township resident Susan Smith, who attends Davison Missionary Church, heard of Lee's need for a host family. She moved to Smith's home in the township last summer.

"The opportunity here in the United States is far greater than South Korea," said Lee. "Consider the size of my country compared to here—there's more schools here and more people to study with."

The environment at Lee's home in the southeastern city of Daegu, the third largest in South Korea with a population of 2.5 million, was conducive to musical training, said Lee.

"We did not watch TV," said Lee.

"My mother, Misuk Noah, would have classical music playing all the time at home. So, now when I hear the music, I say, 'I've heard that before.' I hear passion in the classical music. I can put my passion on the music—it's more than just playing the notes."

"I wanted to be a pianist," she said. "I did not have a talent. So I told my mother I want to play the violin."

Lee played with the Flint Youth Symphony Orchestra, received the Marcia W. Dort String Scholarship, and was runner-up in the FSPA's Concerto competition, where she was one of four finalists of the Bravo competition. Lee attended Pablo Demecke and Dr. Ernest Salem's Master Classes. She also rehearsed with the Flint Symphony Orchestra.

International students, studying in the U.S like Lee, are required to obtain a student visa or I-20 form. Ultimately, Lee plans to attend the New England Conservatory in Boston to further her violin studies.

Lee is currently preparing for a violin recital at 7 p.m., March 5 at Davison Missionary Church, 1481 North Gale Road, Davison to help raise about $7,000 to attend Interlochen Arts Camp south of Traverse City this summer. Each summer, 2,500 students come to Interlochen to train intensively with renowned instructors, producing more than 400 presentations in music, theatre, dance, visual arts, creative writing and motion picture arts.

"I do watch TV now a little bit," said Lee. "I also go out with friends and text message, but I keep focused on my goal."

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