For the love of playing

SHS senior becomes the schools first Chin first chair violinist


Thian Awi

Phunhleihni mi Lal Mawia in a khan dang pawl khal ah orchestra ih a zuam vekin a zuam ve.

Looking at the various instruments laid out before him in his elementary school’s cafeteria, senior Lal Mawia tried several before picking up the violin. Instantly, he felt that he found something he wanted to play when he entered the sixth grade, and that’s what he did. Since then, he’s never stopped playing the violin.

“When I played it, I think found something that I really wanted to play and I thought the sound was really beautiful,” Mawia said.

Next year when he entered the sixth grade, he started playing the violin. Through his hard work, he reached the highest honor in an orchestra.

Mawia became the first Chin violinist to take the first chair in the SHS Advanced Orchestra this year. 

His role means he is someone who leads his section and helps other players with certain skills like bowing and fingering. Being in the highest difficulty orchestra class and the first chair means he did not get this spot without adversity, including an audition process.

“When I did the audition, my heart was beating really fast. I think I was the most nervous right then,” Mawia said. “And when I found my name as the first chair, I was really excited. I felt honored to be named the first chair.”

To Mawia, being the first chair is an honor itself, but it is even more significant for him than students in years past. Having broken the mold, he says he wishes to see this influence future students.

“I hope I can be a good role model to other Burmese students,” Mawia said. “I’d like to pave the way for other Burmese students to let them know that they can become first chairs too.”

In addition to honing his violin skills, Mawia had to overcome other barriers, especially in his interactions with others.

“One of the main hardships that I faced was that I wasn’t very social,” Mawia said. “I didn’t really make connections with a lot of people, and I thought that if I wanted to be at the top, I would have to know more people.”

Nonetheless, Mawia knew that despite this struggle, his hard work would not go to waste.

“I practiced a lot for the audition and tried to play every note perfectly,” Mawia said. “I also try to play two to three hours a day.” 

Orchestra teacher Thomas Wright noticed the hard work Mawia put into playing the violin, more so than some of his other students. One example that Wright mentions is that Mawia has been taking private lessons from a violin teacher that they’ve arranged for him. The teacher comes in every Wednesday after school and teaches Mawia. 

“He puts in a lot of extra effort into it,” Wright said. “Playing the violin is a difficult skill, and he spends a lot of time outside of class practicing it.”

Senior Johnny Lian has been playing the violin together since they were in sixth grade. Mawi and he also take private lessons together. Lian noticed the passion his friend has for the violin throughout the years they played together.

“He works even harder than all of us. I always see him in a practice room and giving it all he’s got. He’s just a really hard worker,” Lian said.

His work ethic is not only present in the orchestra room and while playing the violin, but it can also be seen in his other classes as well. 

“I think he’s a serious student and fun to have in class,” English teacher Julie Breeden said. “He is always thinking during class, talks during our discussions and asks questions. He does his work and comes in ready to explore his ideas in class, which is awesome.”

Mawia has aspirations to continue playing the violin far into the future.

“I’m going to be majoring in composition in college, so I’m going to play in college,” Mawia said. “I also hope that I can make a career out of playing the violin.”