He's first cello in high school area orchestra Having a famous sister doesn't limit the thrill for Michael Chang.

Posted: April 03, 2005

Michael Chang calls it "luck" that he is ranked as the top cellist in the Pennsylvania Music Educators Association's regional orchestra among high school students in the Philadelphia area.

Chang, 17, a junior at Episcopal Academy, didn't even start playing the cello until 3 1/2 years ago.

He was among 12 musicians from public and private schools in Montgomery County selected for the association's Region VI orchestra, which covers Philadelphia and the four surrounding counties.

Musical talent runs in the Chang family. His older sister, Sarah, 24, is recognized as one of the most gifted violinists in the world, and she has collaborated with every major orchestra, including the Philadelphia Orchestra.

FOR THE RECORD - CLEARING THE RECORD, PUBLISHED APRIL 10, 2005, FOLLOWS: A list on the In Schools page of last Sunday's Neighbors section misidentified the status of a group of high school musicians. The students listed have been selected for the All Star Ensemble of the Pennsylvania Music Educators Association's Region VI Orchestra. Members of the ensemble will perform with the All State Orchestra at the Hershey Theatre in Hershey at 11:30 a.m. on April 23.

"Growing up in a musical family, I was sort of bound to play an instrument," says Chang, who lives in Villanova. His parents, Minsoo and Myoung, came to this country from Korea in the late 1970s.

"Since Sarah played the violin, I wanted to play an instrument that was bigger than hers. To be honest, my mother's consistent persuasion inspired me as well," he said.

Chang practices, on average, about two hours a week during the school year (more often during vacations), and rehearses with the Philadelphia Youth Orchestra.

"It's hard to find more time with school and sports," he said. He played quarterback for the football team at Episcopal Academy, and is captain of the varsity tennis team. When he has a concert or an audition, he practices a bit more: three to four hours a week.

Handel's Passacaglia for Violin and Viola (adapted for violin and cello) is one of his favorite pieces. "I've done it many times with different violinists," Chang said. "The last time I did it with Sarah we were in London and played it for the International Red Cross Gala event. I also like the Brahms Double Concerto, which Sarah and I played at the Kimmel Center with the Philadelphia Young Artists Orchestra last year."

Sarah Chang, who was home recently between tour dates, said her brother was "just over the moon" when he was ranked the top cellist in the regional orchestra.

She was performing in Tel Aviv at the time, and the phone there rang at 3:30 a.m. It was Michael.

"He was calling me literally the second his audition was over. Just that he can come to me and share it was wonderful," she said.

Asked what it was like having a famous sister, Chang replied: "I don't think there is a major difference. It's incredible, because during my vacations I get to follow her around the world and get to enjoy the different countries and cultures. I've seen some spectacular, exotic cities and have met many famous musicians and celebrities traveling with her.

"But at the end of the day, she's still Sarah, my sister, who isn't home very much since she travels all the time, but makes up for it by trying to cook for me even when I protest."

All the musicians selected for the Region VI orchestra will next audition for the association's all-state orchestra on April 20. Those selected will give a concert at Cumberland Valley High School in Mechanicsburg April 23.

Contact suburban staff writer Susan Weidener at 610-701-7623 or sweidener@phillynews.com.

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