North Farmington senior named Rochester Symphony Orchestra’s young artist competition winner

By: Jonathan Shead | Farmington Press | Published March 11, 2020

 North Farmington High School senior Susie Lee, 17, was recognized as the winner of the Rochester Symphony Orchestra’s 2020 Young Artist Competition.

North Farmington High School senior Susie Lee, 17, was recognized as the winner of the Rochester Symphony Orchestra’s 2020 Young Artist Competition.

Photo provided by Cindy Ficorelli, Imply By Design

FARMINGTON HILLS/ROCHESTER — Susie Lee, 17, a North Farmington High School senior and violinist, has added another win to her list of accomplishments by being named the Rochester Symphony Orchestra’s 2020 Young Artist Competition winner.

Earlier this year, Lee won the 2020 Dearborn Youth Symphony Concerto Competition.

Her previous accolades include first-place standings at the Farmington Musicale competition in 2016, 2018 and 2019; winning the Detroit Symphony Orchestra’s Civic Youth Ensembles Concerto Competition in 2018; placing first in the American Guild of Music Concerto Competition’s senior division; earning first-place district and state titles in 2017 for her music composition for PTA Reflections; earning a second-place finish in the Sejong National Music Competition in 2016; and more.

Lee has taken on concertmaster and co-concertmaster leadership positions for her school’s symphony orchestra, her church’s youth orchestra and the Dearborn Youth Symphony. She performed with the Detroit Youth Symphony Orchestra since her freshman year and began playing violin at age 5.

Lee was “surprised and elated” to receive the call naming her the winner of the Rochester Symphony Orchestra’s competition this year. As the winner, Lee earned $1,000 and will perform with the orchestra during its season finale concert 8-10 p.m. May 15 at St. Paul’s United Methodist Church, 620 Romeo Road.

Lee said this will be her first performance with a professional orchestra. It’s a new challenge she’s excited to tackle.

She will perform the Sibelius Violin Concerto to orchestral accompaniment.

For the three judges of this year’s competition, Rochester Symphony Orchestra board of directors Vice President Rita May said, choosing the winner was easy.

“(Lee) was just so outstanding that the three judges said, ‘There’s no question — she is the winner.’ Especially the string judge, who said that her playing was so flawless and her intonation was perfect, and that’s hard to do on a violin. … Her playing was first class,” May said.

However, Lee said she wasn’t always this accomplished. She acknowledged her growth as a musician, saying she has improved her playing and has gained confidence on and off the stage. While she used to get nervous playing onstage during her middle school years, she’s been able to exchange that nervousness for excitement, as of late.

Through her work with different teachers and private instructors, Lee has honed her technique, learned how to strengthen her memorizing skills and even how to express different notes and passages to express her own personality through playing.

“After those difficulties went away, and I got over them, you really learn how to perform better and how to improve yourself as a player,” she said. “Learning to love the excitement, nervousness and expression of what music can do for you and other people, I definitely learned that through age.”

As a senior, Lee plans to attend the University of Michigan and study in the College of  Literature, Science and Arts; and the School of Music, Theater and Dance. The $1,000 she earned by winning will primarily go toward her education, though she likes the thought of using some to work on a nonprofit or organization that focuses on performances with high school students while she’s there.

Lee aspires to keep playing her violin and to keep music at the forefront of her life.

“I’ll definitely be trying to find opportunities to keep performing, competing and then maybe find opportunities to teach or work with organizations where I can get more of the youth involved with music, as well.”

For now, though, Lee is focused on finishing up school and practicing for the upcoming concert in May.

Lee said she’s thankful for all of her previous teachers who have helped mold her musically and personally, her parents who have continued to inspire her to keep playing, and her brother.

“There’s a lot of things my family had to sacrifice for him in order for me to continue violin and balancing school, so I want to thank him for understanding what I’m doing and also trying his best.”

For more information on the Rochester Symphony Orchestra and its upcoming concerts, visit