All-State Orchestra

Two HHHS musicians made the All-State Orchestra
By: Todd Martin
 A pair of Harker Heights High School musicians are the first ever in Killeen ISD to make the All-State Orchestra.
Senior Jeesoo Min and freshman Grace Koh earned spots as violinists in the elite group.
While some all-state honors require students rise to the top within a certain region of the Lone Star State, the top scholastic orchestra is literally a competition that spans the entire state, KISD Fine Arts Director Karen Herrera pointed out.
“It is a ranking of violinists in the whole state,” said Harker Heights High School Associate Orchestra Director Joshua Kroft. “It includes Dallas, San Antonio, Houston, Austin, the valley, the entire state.”
For Min, the news she earned a coveted all-state spot was something of a relief. It was her third and final audition for the top orchestra.
“Because I tried out before and didn’t make it, I didn’t think I would,” the senior said, explaining her hesitancy to try for a third time during an intensely busy time in her schooling. “My instructors encouraged me.”
Min spends her mornings at the Texas Bioscience Institute, where she participates in the dual credit program through Temple College. In the afternoons at HHHS, she’s equally busy.
The senior is president of National Honor Society, Interact and the Orchestra Council. She also takes part in student council, is in the rigorous TBI and is applying to top universities to follow an engineering career pathway. She is also at or near the top of her graduating class.
The daughter of Robb Kubiak-Cherkaski and Hae Kyung Kim said she attempted to get in an hour a day of violin practice, but often cut it short because of her busy schedule.
“I looked at the results and when my dad said ‘good job,’ I cried,” she said a few days after earning the 43rd chair in the top state orchestra.
“All three years I’ve been involved in a lot of activities and made excuses that I didn’t have time,” she said. “This year, I knew I had to make it worthwhile as a senior. I wanted to be proud of my last year.”
The road to all-state orchestra is enormously difficult and for a freshman to earn the distinction is amazing. Koh earned the 13th chair in violin.
“It’s an even bigger deal for a freshman to be 13th out of thousands of violinists across the state,” Kroft said, noting that at HHHS alone there are more than 60 students playing the violin.
The talented freshman is accustomed to achievement. She was the top violinist at the regional level in middle school all three years. Still, this honor was a big one.
“I practiced a lot,” she said. “I was surprised. It was a new opportunity for me, so I had a sense of doubt.”
Following a weekend audition at College Station, competitors found out first if they made the pre-area list and then waited until the following day to see if they made the final cut as an all-state member.
“I was really surprised,” Koh said. “I went to string camp in the summer and there were a lot of good musicians above me. I was really surprised.”
The daughter of Sanghyun Koh and Youmi Kim began telling her parents she wanted to learn violin as a first-grader. They gave in when she began third grade.
“I worked hard and my parents supported me and didn’t push me,” she said. “I have friends who support me, too. We’re a very religious family and faith played a big part.”
After making 13th chair in her first year, Koh said she’s excited to try again. “I love the sound of playing and I feel happy playing,” she said. “I like to help others feel happy.”

 “It’s a great step for our program,” said Harker Heights High School Orchestra Director Jeremy Cameron. “It shows we’re going in a great direction. These students are the best of the best in the state.”