Only 11 musicians around the country were selected as winners of the 2020 Yamaha Young Performing Artist Competition.
Oboe player and Air Academy High School graduate Alec Chai is one of them.
The Colorado Springs resident is currently a sophomore at Yale University, where he’s studying chemistry.
“It’s fulfilling,” said Chai, 20, who got the call announcing his win during a physics class. The competition recognizes outstanding young musicians studying in the United States who excel in jazz, classical and contemporary genres.
Chai and the other winners will receive an all expense-paid trip to the YYPA Celebration Weekend in June at Ball State University in Muncie, Ind. They’ll perform at the annual YYPA concert and participate in workshops designed to help them launch a professional music career.
Chai’s flirtation with the oboe began long before he even picked up the instrument in sixth grade. His older brother also played the double reed instrument, and loved to practice into the wee hours of the morning.
“There I am, a little second grader, listening to my brother practice the oboe at midnight,” said Chai. “I heard it for a long time. I was exposed to the sound.”
When it came time for him to choose his own instrument, his mom pushed him to play the oboe, being as they already possessed the instrument. In the end, Chai’s happy with the way it went down.
“There were 13 oboes in sixth grade and 20 flutists,” he said. “I was the only male. It felt weird. I thought maybe I should play trumpet or saxophone, but I’m glad I stuck with the oboe. In orchestra we get the best parts. We get solos.”
He did learn to play saxophone as well, and played it in his high school marching band and jazz band. He switched back to oboe for the high school concert band and Denver Young Artists Orchestra. He’s now a member of the Yale Symphony Orchestra.
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