(Photo courtesy of Susan Kang)
Golden Valley High School

A Golden Opportunity: Susan Kang, professional flute player

Susan Kang, alumna from Golden Valley High School, was blessed with a musical talent others could only dream of. After joining advanced band while attending La Mesa Junior High under the direction of Mr. Stephan, Kang never expected her hobby of playing the flute to become her career and happiness.

Through this program, she learned to appreciate music in a new light and began to put effort and practice into her craft. Fortunately for Kang, her high school band director, who is no longer at Golden Valley, was the principal flute of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, a prestigious orchestra. Her influence on Kang was the reason she even considered following music as a career and major in the first place.

She applied to Northwestern University in Illinois and attended on a full ride musical scholarship. Her professor during undergrad was associate principal flute of the Houston Symphony, and her grad school professor was the associate principal flute of the Boston and San Francisco Symphonies. She had been surrounded and influenced by real musicians since as long as she has been playing.

(Photo courtesy of Susan Kang)

Northwestern is an esteemed school known for their musical excellence. Being over 200 miles from home, Kang suffered many pains and failures. Walking back to her dorm at midnight in snow storms was not ideal, but it was all worth it to her.  

The countless hours of practice and rehearsal seemed to not help her self-confidence when placed in a room full of hundreds of other insanely talented people competing for the same open spot. Usually, there are only two to four flute positions in orchestras and they rarely even become vacant. The only reason a spot would open up is if someone had retired from the position.

During an audition, a list of solos and excerpts are provided and the individuals are given the opportunity to anonymously present a piece to the judges. Audition times were always stressful for Kang as sometimes she would advance to the next round, giving her a spring of hope, only to be sent home. Sometimes these failures would affect Kang psychologically and she would start doubting her self-worth.

Looking on the bright side, she realized she would never reach success without having to go through hardships first. She took the criticism of the judges from past auditions and turned them into something beneficial by spending time improving her sound and musicality for the next listener.

(Photo courtesy of Susan Kang)

Most recently, Kang was enrolled at Rice University pursuing her master’s degree when she was given the golden opportunity of being appointed as principal flute of the Houston Grand Opera and Houston Ballet Orchestras. She has made her dreams become a reality at the highest level.