'I can compete with these incredibly high-caliber musicians': Davies High School clarinetist will represent Fargo in National Youth Orchestra

Joanna Lin, seen Thursday, May 9, at Fargo Davies, was chosen by Carnegie Hall to join 79 other young musicians from around the country in a three-week intensive summer program for teenage American musicians. Michael Vosburg / Forum Photo Editor

FARGO — Davies High School junior Joanna Lin will always remember the day she got accepted into the National Youth Orchestra 2.

The-16 year-old received the email during her AP calculus class. When she saw the word “congratulations,” she started to cry — at that moment, she officially became one of three clarinetists in the United States accepted into the prestigious summer orchestra program.

“I was in shock,” the bubbly musician says. “The other two clarinetists attend professional performing arts high schools, and the fact that I was around the same level as them was really hard to believe. It makes me realize I can compete with these incredibly high-caliber musicians.”

In early July, Lin begins the three-week journey at Purchase College in Harrison, N.Y., with 79 high school musicians from all over the country, including a cellist from Grand Forks. While there, the musicians will get a week of intensive training with top American instrumentalists.

The following week, the group ventures to Miami to receive further training and perform at the New World Center. The tour concludes with a final performance at Carnegie Hall in New York City on July 30.


Gaining skills

National Youth Orchestra 2 recruits talented musicians ages 14-17 “from communities underrepresented in classical music,” according to the Carnegie Hall website. National Youth Orchestra USA, the highest level of the program, trains musicians ages 16-19 and tours internationally for six weeks.

Joanna Lin will join 79 other young musicians from around the country in a three-week intensive summer program for teenage American musicians. Michael Vosburg / Forum Photo Editor

Lin, who started clarinet in sixth grade, is especially grateful for the opportunity because her acceptance into the program shows her progress as a musician. She applied as a freshman two years ago, shortly after she joined the Fargo-Moorhead Area Youth Symphonies. Although she wasn’t accepted into the National Youth Orchestra 2 at the time, Lin acknowledged her experience with the youth symphony better prepared her to apply again last fall.

“I can tell when I listen to recordings how much I’ve changed since freshman year,” says the musician, who practices one to three hours a day. “Now that I think about it, I can see I wasn’t at the level I needed to be. Back then, it was my first year in (the youth symphony), and being an orchestral player is different than being in band.”

Her experience as a woodwind player in the Fargo Moorhead Area Youth Symphonies “changed my confidence as a performer,” Lin says, as she often performs solos in the Senior High Symphony led by Dr. Jane Linde Capistran.


“I think that really impacted how I perform and express myself,” Lin says. “I’m used to (the responsibility of) people listening to my cues, and that confidence carries into my solo performances.”

The Fargo native also performs in the North Dakota All State Orchestra and Davies High School band. Her other notable accomplishments include founding Resonate, a nonprofit that provides music resources to middle and high school students in rural communities, and winning first place in the Thoreson Steffes Young Artists Solo Competition through the Fargo-Moorhead Symphony Orchestra last year.

As the winner of the Thoreson Steffes Young Artists Solo Competition, Joanna Lin got to perform with the Fargo-Moorhead Symphony Orchestra in 2018. Special to The Forum

Lin credits her love for classical music to her parents, Xin Ding and Dongqing Lin, who have listened to it as long as she can remember.

“I owe so much to them for their constant support and for spending the time to bring me to lessons, be present at all my performances and concerts and for having confidence in me,” Lin says.

In addition to playing clarinet, Lin is a talented pianist. She takes private clarinet lessons with Dr. Cassie Keogh and piano lessons with Dr. Amy Mercer, both of whom are faculty at North Dakota State University.


In addition to clarinet, Joanna Lin also plays piano. Special to The Forum

During our interview, Lin was brimming with excitement for new experiences with the National Youth Orchestra 2, like traveling on her own for the first time, training with top American instrumentalists and meeting more musicians her age who “care about playing music as much as I do,” she says.

But most of all, Lin is excited for the challenge.

“A lot of people have the skills to (play an instrument), but when the performance comes, it’s hard to find the confidence to show all of that 100 percent,” she says. “When I perform now, I can go 95 percent. I feel like this opportunity will help me get to 100 percent. You have to have some fearlessness and trust in yourself.”

This article is part of a content partnership with The Arts Partnership, a nonprofit organization cultivating the arts in Fargo, Moorhead and West Fargo. For more information, visit

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