I’m a Tulsa Kid: Samantha Yanchunas

Tulsa Honors Orchestra and musical composer

Samantha (Sam) Yanchunas, a violinist and violist with the Tulsa Honors Orchestra, recently performed two of her compositions, “Cat and Mouse” and “Devil’s Jig,” in April at Tulsa Living Arts Young Composer’s Concert. Writing a composition is a lengthy, creative process  that Sam embraces. Last year, she performed at Carnegie Hall on viola with the High School Carnegie Hall Orchestra Honor Series. The Jenks High School senior’s favorite classes are science and math and in her free time she enjoys volunteering, reading, camping and backpacking.

TK: How long have you taken viola and violin and what is the difference between the two instruments?

Sam: I have played viola for seven years and violin for six-and-a-half. The difference between the violin is that it is smaller compared to a viola, and the violin has a higher string; whereas, the viola has a lower one. There is also a difference in the bows. The violin bow is generally lighter and the frog (the bottom most part of the bow were musicians hold it) has a pointed corner.  Violaists prefer a heavier bow and it has a rounded corner at the frog.

TK: How long have you played in Tulsa Honors Orchestra and what is your practice schedule like?

Sam: We practice once a week on Mondays. I play from 4:30 to 6:30 after school. I have been with the Tulsa Youth Orchestra for two years. I moved to Tulsa from Glen Carbon, Illinois, two years ago.

TK: Can you explain the creative process of writing a musical composition?

Sam: Composing a musical piece is much like building a house. You have the foundation on which everything sits. For a composition, there are five lines and four spaces, a clef telling you your relative pitch, a time signature announcing how many beats per measure and which note gets the beat, and a key signature giving a specific pitch. After you have decided all of these, you are finally ready to start putting in notes.

There are a few things to greatly consider while writing your piece. First, you have to consider how you want your piece to sound, which can range from natural wonders like the Grand Canyon to rain, or to the sounds of the city or the countryside. You might also consider using a certain rhythm or phrase (a short melody within a piece) over again or changing it slightly. After you finish writing your piece, you have to title it (you can also do this before). Write your name as the composer, and consider your tempo. The tempo is a very important part of a musical piece. It lets the musician know how fast your piece needs to go.

TK: Do you have a favorite composer?

Sam: My favorite composer is Tchaikovsky.

TK: Tell us about your experience performing at Carnegie Hall with the High School Carnegie Hall Orchestra Honors Series last year. 

Sam: Playing in Carnegie was awesome. Once we got there and got everything we needed from the hotel and the Carnegie people, my mom and I left to go explore New York City. The next few days consisted of about six hours of practicing. One morning a few people got up (including me) and went to the Today Show. Even though I was only on for three seconds, my father painstakingly searched and found me on the television. Carnegie Hall is glorious! It was nothing like anything I had seen before and our concert was a success.

TK: What are your future plans with music?

Sam: I plan to do a major or even a minor in music in college.  I am definitely not going to give it up. I love playing too much. I do plan, however, to get a major in one of the sciences. I am thinking engineering, chemistry, or biotechnology  I want to go to the local community college (Tulsa Community College) for the first two years to experiment with classes, but one thing is for absolutely certain, no matter what path I take, I am never giving up music.