Manhasset Top Scholars

Ryan Chung

Part one of a two-part series

Manhasset High School has announced its valedictorian is Ryan Chung and salutatorian is Alex Mazer. The students both received admission to the Ivy halls; Chung will go off to Harvard University in the fall and Mazer decided to take a different path and accept the Moorehead-Cain Scholar Program at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill. Both have very interesting backgrounds.

Here is a brief view of what each student is made of:

Ryan Chung

Tell us about yourself.

I was born in Manhasset at the North Shore Hospital. I lived in Great Neck until seventh grade. I’ve been in the Manhasset School District since seventh grade. My parents are both Korean-American and part of the “1.5 Generation.” I am an only child.

How did you feel about being named valedictorian for the Class of 2018?

Reflecting on my past four years, I know that I gave it my all in my classes and made sure my grades reflected that effort. Being valedictorian never crossed my mind until the middle or end of junior year when my friends and peers started talking about it, but I am definitely pleased to see that my hard work has brought me here and earned me the title of valedictorian.

What college are you planning to attend and what do you think you will pursue as a major?

I will be attending Harvard University in the fall, and I will most likely pursue political science as a major.

What clubs and activities are you a part of at Manhasset High School?

I am a member of the Math, Science, English, Spanish, and National Honor Societies. I am the president of Tri-M (the music honor society) and of the Social Studies Honor Society. I am a writer and editor-in-chief for our school’s newspaper, Indian Ink.

Is there an event that changed your life?

There isn’t necessarily a single event that changed my life, but meeting my cello teacher, Dr. Clara Kim, for the first time and studying with her for seven years had a great impact on my life. She not only taught me how to be a better cellist, but also molded me into a better person. She’s taught me how to deal with failure and how to stay humble despite my achievements.

What are your interests outside of school?

I am very invested in classical music. I attended the Juilliard Pre-College Program as a cellist for the past six years (I graduated this past May). During my six-year journey at Juilliard Pre-College, I’ve met people from different backgrounds, states, and even countries but all with the same goal: to pursue a higher level of music and to interact with and learn from other high-caliber musicians. Through attending this weekly program, I’ve learned musicianship and the art of budgeting my time. Given my heavy school workload and the additional time needed to practice my solo, chamber and orchestral repertoire and complete homework from Juilliard classes, I developed an outstanding work ethic.

I have been serving as a “musical ambassador” with the National Youth Orchestra, a group brought together by Carnegie Hall’s Weill Music Institute. Two summers ago, I had toured with the National Youth Orchestra to Europe. I got to play under the baton of highly esteemed conductors Christoph Eschenbach and Valery Gergiev. Our performances featured solos by critically acclaimed pianists Emanuel Ax and Denis Matsuev, and took place in world-renowned halls such as The Royal Concertgebouw in Amsterdam and Smetana Hall in Prague. While I savored this glamorous performance itinerary, I found that my Latin American concert tour this past summer with the National Youth Orchestra was far more life changing.

Although I had been performing in orchestral ensembles at Juilliard Pre-College and at my high school, the experience of collaborating with citizens of other countries whom I had never met before, many of whom didn’t share a common language with me, showed me the power of music to unite people. There was something extra special and palpable about the audience’s engagement with and appreciation of the music as we performed with their local youth orchestras. Working with, mentoring, and being mentored by musicians of the various orchestras showed me that playing beautiful music can be a very powerful experience that transcends borders. I felt that I was helping to make the world more harmonious with each phrase; the arts effectively served as a common language unhindered by political and geographical boundaries. I experienced the way that a common mission of creating beauty together can unify people of all backgrounds, perspectives, and experiences.

I will be joining NYO-USA again this summer for their Asian tour to Taipei, Shanghai, Beijing, Seoul, Daejeon.

Do you have a mentor?

Dr. Schlanger, my school principal, has been an integral part of my high school journey and has definitely put me on the right path. I frequent the Principal’s office and have done so for over two years. When I enter, I am greeted by a firm handshake and a smile and we begin talking about our project, the “Alumni Profiles.” Two years ago, Dr. Schlanger invited me to work on this endeavor after reading my article published in Johns Hopkins’s Imagine magazine and after reviewing my work as editor and writer for my school’s newspaper. The project entailed interviewing some of the oldest alumni and allowed me to help document the history and legacy of the school. We decided to scan all of Manhasset High School’s yearbooks and display them on my Manhasset Historical Society website to provide digital access to the whole community. Dr. Schlanger agreed that the district residents would value having access to older yearbooks. The “Alumni Profiles” gave me my first taste of archiving living history myself.

Which teacher influenced you the most?

I took Mr. Massetti’s AP Government class last year as a junior. Although I had always had a penchant for political science, it was his class that further developed my passion for it.

What awards have you won?

In addition to the President’s Volunteer Service Bronze Award, Clio Award for Best Creative Writing of a History Paper and numerous awards for cello including quarterfinalist in the Fischoff International Chamber Competition, South Bend, IN; selected as one of 12 representatives of the United States; for The 8th International Tchaikovsky Competition for Young Musicians, Moscow, Russia silver prize at the International Virtuoso Competition, Palisades Park, NJ; first prize New York Music Competition; Grand Prize winner of the National Young Musicians Showcase Competition in New York, First Prize American Protégé International Piano and Strings Competition, New York; Grand prize winner Concert Festival International Competition, New York

See an interview with the salutatorian in next week’s edition.

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Elizabeth Johnson is former editor of Manhasset Press and Manhasset Press Magazine. Growing up in nearby Garden City and attending New York University, she is well-versed in the locale and knowledgeable about the beat she covers. Her community involvement is extensive and includes the Manhasset SCA, Kiwanis International, Manhasset Chamber of Commerce, St. Mary’s Church, and various civic and local charitable organizations. Curious by nature, her travels, community service, love of the arts as well as local sports give her the inside view to unique content. During her time at Anton, she has received several awards from the New York Press Association and the Press Club of LI, including the coveted "Best Community Newspaper" several years in a row.


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