15-year-old violinist from Cedar City to play at Carnegie Hall

CEDAR CITY — A 15-year-old violinist from Cedar City is one of an elite group of students selected for the 2022 High School Honors Performance Series and will perform at the world-famous Carnegie Hall.

Undated promotional photo of Derek Wood, 15, of Cedar City, Utah, autumn 2021 | Photo courtesy of Oh Snap Photography, St. George News / Cedar City News

Derek Wood, who is a student at both Cedar High School and Southern Utah University, will perform as a member of the honors string orchestra, one of the five honors ensembles selected to perform at the prestigious venue in New York City the first week of February.

Cedar City News recently caught up with Wood during a short break in his busy schedule.

“I get to go play with other teenagers and some younger adults, and we’ll play as an orchestra,” Wood said. “We’ll play some really cool music. There’s one called ‘Perseus,’ and we have to learn some new pieces for it.”

Wood said he was one of 10,000 young music students who submitted audition recordings earlier in 2021 as part of the application process. Of those, just 500 musicians from around the United States and a few other countries were selected, including Australia, Bermuda, China, Guam and South Korea. 

The string orchestra group in which Wood will play comprises approximately 100 members.

Derek Wood, 15, warms up before Orchestra of Southern Utah’s performance of Handel’s “Messiah,” Cedar City, Utah, Dec. 12, 2021 | Photo by Jeff Richards, St. George News / Cedar City News

Wood said as far as he knows, he is the only performer from Utah who was chosen this year. 

Wood, who started playing violin at the age of 4, has studied music for the past 11 years under the direction of instructors Sara Penny, who is a member of the Orchestra of Southern Utah and vice president of the Cedar City Arts Council, and Dr. Xun Sun, director of orchestral activities at SUU. 

Wood previously performed with the Missouri Youth Conservatory and also had the opportunity to perform with The Piano Guys when he was 10 years old. 

More recently, Wood performed with Marie Osmond during her Dec. 1 concert at SUU. The following week, he performed in Orchestra of Southern Utah’s two-night production of Handel’s “Messiah.”

When he’s not busy with music or schoolwork, Wood said he enjoys spending time outdoors. This past fall, he competed as a member of the Iron Giants high school mountain biking team.

“I like to ride,” he said. “I get to go out into nature, and that helps me in my music a little bit because I can express some of that in my playing.”

“It’s really good for me to be able to do that, because if you focus on just one thing, like the violin, you get so focused on that subject that you don’t learn about other aspects that can add cool, new ideas to what you are learning.”

Wood said he also enjoys playing board games and making 3D art designs on the computer.

Derek Wood, 15, practices his violin at home, Cedar City, Utah, Dec. 31, 2021 | Photo by Jeff Richards, St. George News / Cedar City News

Wood says he’s on track to get his associate’s degree from SUU next year before he even finishes his junior year at Cedar High. He plans to continue studying at SUU and get his bachelor’s degree in music.

Wood said he’s excited about his upcoming trip to New York and has already started practicing the music he and his fellow orchestra members will be performing.

Wood said it typically takes him about one month to master a new piece.

“If I really work hard at it, though, it takes two weeks, and then I can keep working on it,” he said. “It just keeps getting better and better the longer I work at it.”

In a recent news release about the upcoming Honors Performance Series, program director Marion Gomez noted that working with the performance series conductors and performing at Carnegie Hall is a “once-in-a-lifetime experience that these musicians will never forget.”

For more information, visit the Honors Performance website.

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2022, all rights reserved.

Free News Delivery by Email

Would you like to have the day's news stories delivered right to your inbox every evening? Enter your email below to start!