Anh Ho of Lawrenceville is an award-winning percussionist. He's 16
Anh Ho is a 16-year-old percussion player from Lawrenceville. This rising junior at Collins Hill High School not only performs in the Atlanta Symphony Youth Orchestra and Georgia’s All-State Band: He is about to tour with the National Youth Orchestra, and last fall he won the high school marimba competition at the Percussive Arts Society International Conference.
Most recently, Anh Ho was named a Jack Kent Cooke Young Artist, winning $10,000 to put toward his musical education, and he’ll be featured on this week’s From the Top, the show and podcast celebrating fantastic young classical musicians, this Sunday, June 25 at 7 p.m. on GPB Classical.
GPB’s Sarah Zaslaw recently sat down with Anh to learn more about the young man behind the mallets.
Interview highlights (edited)
On when he got serious about music
Seventh grade. All my friends made All-State and high chairs for District [ensembles], and unfortunately I did not. I hate to say it but I was a pretty cocky kid back then. I always thought, 'I’ll make it, I don’t need to practice.' And when it hits and all my friends are going off, having fun and I’m just left here behind, I realized I need to grind, you know? So I got in the weeds and started practicing a lot, and I came to the realization that I love music. I love practicing. It brings out some type of peace in me. And when I started getting attention from YouTuber Adam Tan, when I started winning more competitions, it brought even more motivation to keep pursuing that.
On immigrating from Vietnam
I was in third grade when I came to America, so I did have time to adjust, unlike my brother, who came in eighth grade. My parents came to America for my and my brother’s education. And so as a way to express to them that their sacrifices are worth it, my brother and I wanted to be accomplished in our fields. That’s one of the reasons why I work so hard in music. I want to show them that it’s worth it because now your son is doing all these things, he’s getting recognized, bringing great honor to the family.
On band versus orchestra
I prefer orchestra music. That’s contrary to what I feel most percussionists would say. Because in orchestra you have maybe 200 bars of rests and then one crash cymbal. In band, you get more playing time. But orchestra, I just love listening to the music. There’s something about having strings there.
On effects of the pandemic
I actually think that it helped my musical life a lot, because I was quarantined. I couldn’t play with a group. The only way to make music then was to play solo. That’s how I started loving solo and really just playing difficult repertoire — because I had nothing else to do.
On the many percussion instruments
Usually the three main instruments you would need to be good at for auditions are marimba, snare drum and timpani. If you’re solid on those three categories, you would be pretty well off on other instruments as well. But there are techniques on other instruments like tambourine, tamtam, that do need to be learned. I hate to say it, but I did often neglect those techniques when I was a younger player. But when I went to Interlochen Arts, everything changed, because they focus on producing good sounds with all type of instruments, not just the main three. A marimba typically costs upwards of $10,000, for a five-octave marimba. A snare drum would typically cost $1,000 including the stand. A tambourine would be $100, somewhere around there. Percussion is not cheap.
On how much he practiced for this year’s big auditions
On a weekend, six hours. On a weekday, maybe three hours.
On nonmusical pursuits
I love playing tennis. I just love hitting things, you know, from marimba to tennis balls. It’s really stress-relieving when you get to whack around a ball. And it’s a really good social outlet. There are a lot of percussionists in my community who play tennis.
On college choices
I believe that going to conservatory can limit your perspective on things. When you’re being surrounded by musicians all the time, your view gets pretty narrow, I think. But if you go to a liberal arts college, where there’s so many different majors, you start to open yourself up and you see more opportunities, more perspectives — not just music all the time. And that actually helps with musicmaking as well.
On recording From the Top
I’d never stepped into a professional recording studio before. I’ve always been used to having one-take recording — you know, if you mess up, you’ve got to try over again. But when I went there, if you make an error, you can just go back and record that one part. They make it really easy for you to play your best and to have fun and showcase your love for music.