Senior Sarina Rye won gold for her solo violin performance of “Meditation from Thaís” at the 2020 Golden Empire Music Festival. That was her favorite piece at the time.
“It’s always stuck in my head,” Rye said, “and I have a bunch of variations of it in my Apple Music.”
Rye’s journey with the violin started in fifth grade, when all students had to pick an instrument to play.
“I knew I didn’t want to do something in band because I just didn’t think I could get enough air to make a good sound.”
Originally, she wanted to learn cello, but her sister protested.
“My sister told me, ‘that is way too big for you. I’m not gonna help you lug it around.’ So I picked the violin instead,” Rye said.
She started taking lessons during the summer before fifth grade and ended up liking the violin, so she continued to play.
In her freshman year, Rye joined the Sacramento Youth Symphony. She auditioned and was placed in the Classic Orchestra. After two years, she moved to the Academic Orchestra, a level above Classic.
“Before ninth grade, I didn’t really know it existed or anything. I did a bunch of stuff in ninth grade, like trying out new things and seeing what I liked. That was the first thing I did that was outside of school,” Rye said.
SYS has much bigger orchestras compared to the school orchestra, so Rye had to adapt.
“It’s a totally different experience being in Youth Symphony with a full orchestra and full sound and playing higher level pieces,” Rye said. “It just makes you more well-rounded.”
High school orchestra director Maria Hoyos complimented Rye’s playing in the orchestra.
“Sarina helps to strengthen the overall sound of the orchestra,” Hoyos said. “She is conscientious and she is a strong leader in the orchestra and in the chamber group.”
Rye’s experiences playing the violin weren’t always smooth sailing.
During her junior year, Rye was taking weekly violin lessons with lower school music teacher Elena Bennett. Though rewarding, Rye said her lessons could get straining.
“Sometimes, music can be stressful, especially if you’re playing in different orchestras,” Rye said. “And the violin especially can be a rigorous instrument.”
One day, after a busy day of practicing for orchestra and working on the school newspaper, The Octagon, she grew tired of the violin going into her lesson with Bennett.
“I didn’t really feel like playing the violin or doing music lessons,” Rye said, “so then I went and I was like, ‘do you think we could just have a ukulele lesson right now?’”
Bennett agreed and taught her four basic chords for the ukulele.
“That weekend, I went and got my own,” she said.
Rye had always wanted an instrument to accompany her singing, which couldn’t be done on the violin. Besides, she enjoys music in all forms.
“Whether it has lyrics or not, I always find it very easy to connect to music or, even if I can’t personally connect, learn about emotions other people are having,” Rye said.
To express her love for poetry and music, Rye writes her own songs to sing and play on the ukulele. The theme and content of her songs vary, as Rye uses a mix of melodies and phrases taken from her daily life.
“On my Notes app, I have this whole document just full of little phrases and sentences or sentence fragments, basically from anything I read, like books, songs, tweets or articles that just kind of resonate with me,” Rye said.
Rye’s collection of quotes range from a warning message in Minecraft to a Franz Kafka quote.
“I also just get melodies stuck in my head that don’t actually exist.”
On her phone, Rye’s voice memo app is filled with 5 to 10-second recordings of her humming tunes that came to mind.
“And then sometimes I go back, I’m like, let’s turn this into something,” Rye said.
Her first song was made with little planning. There was no theme, and Rye didn’t have a clear idea of how to write the song.
“There has always been the feeling like, ‘oh, it seems pretty hard to take the chords and stuff and go with it,’ so for my first one I just kind of went for it.”
Rye worked on her first song in 15-minute intervals and sometimes waited months before composing the chords for her song.
“It’s very catchy, and it’s stuck in my head all the time,” Rye said. “But it’s just kind of random.”
Rye wasn’t sure about the meaning of her song.
“I might need to get someone else to tell me what it means.”
Unlike her first song, her subsequent works are more organized. For example, one of her songs is based on how a person’s appearance doesn’t convey their true feelings.
Rye is writing her fifth song, and she is still deciding on a theme.
Currently, her collection of quotes for her new song is sorted into five categories: time, burning, violence, desperation and heart.
She doesn’t choose her themes ahead of time, but rather she groups certain quotes that convey similar meanings and builds from those meanings.
Rye has the most inspiration for this song out of all her previous works, so she is still deciding on what to use as her lyrics, she said.
Rye records the music she experiences and expresses them as her own. Whether it’s composing or performing, music will always attract her.
Originally published in the March 9 edition of the Octagon.