The Sound of Lab
The Sound of Lab

top: Jennifer Yu Wang '18; bottom: Louis Auxenfans '23
Photo Credit: CYSO

The Sound of Lab

Upon entering Grade 5 in Lab's Lower School, students excitedly select an instrument and begin their musician journey. Though many students may have played an instrument before joining Lab, many may have never picked up an instrument, and so begins an experience of a lifetime in not only developing new musical skills but also developing skills that are needed throughout adulthood. For many decades, Lab music teachers have instilled a sense of encouragement and direction for tens of thousands of “Labbies” as they continue down their musical path.

Though students don’t play an instrument until Grade 5, Lab’s music education is from Nursery 3 through Grade 12. At the Historic Campus, music teachers offer classes in general music, band, choir, orchestra, Bel Canto, Chamber Collective, Jazz band, music history, digital music production, and various independent studies. Throughout any given school year, there are more than 40 music performances, according to Middle School choir teacher Hsing-Huei Huang.*

“The amount of classes and performances offered in our Schools is truly outstanding,” Huang said. “Our Lab musicians delight in offering beautiful performances that enrich the audience… But beyond the broader community’s enjoyment of the music, Lab’s music program also helps musicians in ways that go well beyond their individual ability to perform. It teaches discipline and concentration, as being a successful musician requires consistent practice over long periods of time.”

The Chicago Youth Symphony Orchestra

Lab musicians have a long history of becoming members of the Chicago Youth Symphony Orchestra (CYSO) and performing in ensembles at the Symphony Center and beyond.

Henry Auxenfans-CYSO performance

Henry Auxenfans performing with CYSO
Photo Credit: CYSO

This past spring, on Sunday, May 21, many of Lab’s current musicians performed in two ensembles in CYSO’s spring concert—the Philanthropic Orchestra, performed the opening piece, and the Symphony Orchestra, performed the other five pieces.

One solo performance that was “simply breathtaking” was U-High student Henry Auxenfans’ rendition of Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto in D Major, Op. 35 accompanied by CYSO, according to Huang. Henry performed the last piece of the first half.

“Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto in D Major is one of the most difficult concertos in the violin repertoire, but even at the young age of 15, Henry showed artistry typically only achieved by much older musicians,” Huang said. 

Henry was the winner of the 2022 Concerto Competition at the Symphony Center and thus had the opportunity to perform a solo with the CYSO that night. However, this was not the first time Henry performed the concerto. “I played this piece with the Civic Orchestra in January as one of the finalists of the CSO Crain-Maling Foundation Young Artists Competition,” Henry said. “This time, I felt I had a better understanding of Tchaikovsky’s language and structure… I became more proficient and was able to execute my musical ideas with a higher level of artistry.

Lab’s Music Education

Henry began playing the violin at age four and has been a part of CYSO for eight years. He has performed in many ensembles at CYSO and national competitions including claiming first place in the finals of the 2022 United States Marine Band concerto competition last February in Washington, DC, and got to play with the US Marine Chamber Orchestra in April.

“It was such an honor to be able to work with them, and to be able to play with the nation’s oldest orchestra institution. I will cherish that for the rest of my life,” Henry told CYSO in an interview.

Henry, along with his brother Louis Auxenfans ’23, have both participated in the annual LabArts performance and the annual Lab Schools’ October recital—which were organized by former music teacher Brad Brickner. Henry was also part of Lab’s choir from Grades 5–9 and Lab’s independent study for trio music.

“We are very fortunate to have an extremely supportive community and top-notch facilities [like Gordon Parks Arts Hall] where we can practice performing and share our musical arts with others,” Henry said. “I truly appreciate those training and performing opportunities I have had at [Lab] since I was in primary school…My brother Louis and I are also extremely appreciative of the group of supportive and enthusiastic audiences attending these events.”

Like his brother, Louis also plays the piano, but picked up the clarinet in Lab’s fifth-grade band. “The enthusiastic and caring support of the band teachers helped give me the patience and confidence necessary to excel at my instrument,” Louis says. “Teachers like Ryan Hudec and Brickner made rehearsals engaging by having us break down tricky rhythms in cool ways and reminding us to tell a story through music. Those rehearsals made me excited to practice and come back the next day playing even better.”

Louis, who first joined CYSO seven years ago, was the principal clarinetist of CYSO’s flagship Symphony Orchestra and Classical Orchestra Repertory Ensemble. He competed and was awarded in several local and national competitions for his piano and clarinet talents including the 2018 Crain-Maling CSO Young Artist Competition, where he won a scholarship prize to attend Boston University Tanglewood Institute. In 2018, he also won Walgreens National Concerto Competition in the junior woodwind division, and in 2020, he was the Illinois Federation of Music Club Concerto Competition winner for his performance of Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 3. Both Lab’s band and CYSO gave Louis “the opportunity to take on exciting, challenging repertoire with frequent performances at Mandel Hall and Logan Center.”

“Lab’s band was and is a great place for all beginners to take advantage of exploring a new instrument in an incredibly supportive and fun environment,” Louis says, who was at music camp in Tanglewood this summer before joining Harvard this fall. “Lab’s band program helped give me a strong foundation to shape and elevate my musicianship that became beneficial in all facets of my playing—from CYSO to solo performances.”

Beyond Lab

Louis and Henry have been featured on WFMT’s Introductions show. However, they are not the only Lab musicians featured on the show. Alumna Jennifer Yu Wang ’18 and alumnus Giacomo Glotzer ’18 have also performed live on the show and were also members of CYSO.

Wang was a member of the CYSO for eight years and was the principal flutist. At CYSO, she was awarded with the 2018 Albert Pick III Award, and she won a number of awards in local and national solo and chamber competitions including first place in the Young Artists division of the Society of American Musicians, the 2013 Chicago Flute Club competitions, and First Chair in the National Flute Association (NFA) High School Flute Choir at the NFA annual convention.

As a “Lablifer,” Wang, a flutist in the U-High band, the Jazz Band, and the U-High chamber music program, fondly remembers all her music teachers since preschool, like Huang and Brickner, as well as En-Chen-Grozdov, Crystal (Schlieker) Henricks, Catherine Janovjak, Lee Gustafson, Katy Sinclair, Fransicso Dean, Michelle Morales, and Rozalyn Torto. “Music was at the center of my Lab School education,” Wang said. “Through the Lab music department, I gained insight on history, social justice, and of course, music, in ways that would never have been possible in other courses.”

Wang recently graduated from Harvard University and studied neuroscience while continuing to pursue music. Wang was president of the Harvard-Radcliffe Orchestra (HRO) and is now a director on HRO’s Alumni Board.

“All of which would never have happened without the inspiration I had in Middle School music classes at Lab School,” Wang said. “Through Lab, my love of playing a wind instrument was nurtured through the U-High band and other programs, and the encouragement I got from every single teacher in the Music Department to practice and even teach my peers. From them, I gained the confidence to thrive and succeed in organizations like CYSO or HRO, and the necessary skills to become not just a musician, but a leader and life-long lover of the performing arts.”

Glotzer, also a “Lablifer,” began his journey with the cello in Kindergarten, and in third grade he was drawn to the alto saxophone. Glotzer said the saxophone became part of his student life and would play the cello in his spare time, but that changed in U-High when Huang approached him with the proposal of joining a flute-piano-cello trio.

“This was a significant turning point in my musical journey. I grew to love the intimacy of chamber music, the exchange of ideas, both spoken and unspoken, in the practice room and on the stage,” Glotzer said.


LowStrung Ensemble
Photo Credit: LowStrung Ensemble

Glotzer was part of the CYSO for ten years playing cello, and was CYSO’s 2018 winner of the Mollendorf Award. He also had the opportunity to tour Central Europe with CYSO, according to the U-High Midway. “Music will continue providing me a space to express my emotions while also teaching me important life skills,” Glotzer told CYSO in an interview.

Glotzer recently graduated Yale University and is going to study neuroscience in a PhD program, but before doing that he toured with Yale’s Low Strung, a 12-member cello rock band comprised of classically trained cellists, which he joined in 2018. Huang said that Glotzer dreamt of bringing the group to Chicago and Lab, and in June that dream came true when Low Strung performed at Earl Shapiro Hall and the Historic Campus.

“Having the opportunity to bring Low Strung to Lab was a unique full-circle moment that I will always cherish,” Glotzer said. “It was a joy to reunite with several of my [former] teachers, including Huang, Staci Garner, Francisco Javier Saez De Adana, Frau Steinbarth, Ian Taylor, and Meghan Janda. These educators played crucial roles in shaping not only my life but also those of my friends. The experience of returning to express my gratitude was deeply rewarding.”

*In the print version of LabLife Hsing-Huei Huang title was mistakenly noted as Lab’s orchestra teacher.

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