By Natalie Lariccia
Natalie Sahyoun of the Youngstown Symphony Orchestra will attend an international festival in Germany next month.
The violin is much more than a musical instrument for Natalie Sahyoun.
This historical instrument has provided her with a prosperous career, a passion for music and a portal to success.
And, next month, the Boardman resident will have an opportunity to further her violin knowledge and professional playing experience as an attendee of the Sulzbach-Rosenberg International Music Festival Aug. 4-16 in Bavaria, Germany.
Participating in the festival is a once-in-a-lifetime experience and dream-come-true for the 2000 Boardman High School graduate.
“It’s surreal. I don’t think I’ll actually believe it until I’m there. It’s so amazing ...It’s a combination of hard work and being in the right place in the right time,” she said.
The 12-day festival features a schedule packed with events, performances and opportunities to work one-on-one with internationally-renowned musicians.
Sahyoun, a Youngstown State University graduate who earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in music-violin performance, first heard about the festival earlier this year through Hristo Popov, a violin virtuoso of Bulgaria that she met in April while performing at a friend’s recital at YSU’s Dana School of Music.
Sahyoun was ecstatic and flattered that Popov would consider her to be a candidate, but there was a catch — the cost of the event and travel expenses was more than $3,000. Sahyoun did not have the money, nor did she think she could raise that amount by the June 1 deadline.
“I called my sister and told her about it (the music festival), but I didn’t think I could go. My sister said ‘you’re going — we will find a way,’” she said.
Sahyoun and her family began distributing flyers and letters expressing her interest in attending throughout the community. In a matter of just three weeks, she was able to round up enough funds to purchase her ticket and fund the festival expenses.
Sahyoun said she was shocked and flattered at how quickly she was able to drum up interest and financial support. Some donations were from complete strangers, she said.
“I was shocked. I thought ‘why me?’...I know people are kind, but these people didn’t even know me and gave me money. I couldn’t believe how many people made it all happen. Pretty much, I was amazed how people in a community can all come together,” she said.
Sahyoun said her passion for the violin is somewhat ironic. Always a music lover, she aspired to play the flute when she began studying music as a fifth grade student at Boardman Center Middle School. She decided to play violin, however, after she found her grandmother’s violin in her grandmother’s closet.
“It (the violin) wasn’t my first choice music-wise, but I just loved music. Once I started playing, I’ve played every day since then. It’s been the best thing that’s happened to me,” she said.
Sahyoun said it wasn’t uncommon for her family to joke with her to stop practicing and to enjoy life. In college, she began a rigorous routine that involved her waking up at 4:30 a.m. to practice scales.
All the hard work, however, has paid off. In addition to her accomplishments at YSU, she plays with the Youngstown Symphony, the Warren Philharmonic and the Greenville Symphony Orchestra. She also teaches private lessons and plays with the Harmony String Quartet, a locally-based string quartet that performs for private events and weddings. Sahyoun’s future aspirations include playing with the Cleveland Orchestra.
Sahyoun says she’s extremely grateful for her family and for their patience and support with her career. She’s also recognizes the people who donated for her trip and her violin instructors, Urmi Shah; Jennifer Doyle, Vladmir Deninzon; Kathryn Walker; and John Wilcox, YSU associate professor of violin. Without her instructors’ years of patience and coaching, she would not have attained her success today, she said.
“The violin is my life ...It’s like a combination of the luckiest thing ever. It almost brings tears to my eyes. My violin has taken me so many places, and I keep wondering where it’s going to take me next. I feel so lucky (to be going to Germany),” she said.