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State Honoree

Photo of State Honoree Irene Yoo

Irene Yoo

Las Vegas , Nevada

Irene Yoo, 15, of Las Vegas, Nevada, a sophomore at Ed W. Clark High School, formed a youth orchestra in the winter of 2019 that conducts recitals at senior care facilities and children’s hospitals in her community. Irene began playing the viola when she was 11 years old and has since performed in several youth orchestras, including the Korean Youth Orchestra, which sometimes held concerts at senior centers. “Our audience always loved our music, and after each performance we spent time chatting with the seniors,” said Irene. She really enjoyed interacting with older people, she said, but the problem was that many of her musician friends weren’t Korean, so they weren’t eligible to join. Irene envisioned a group of young musicians coming together based on ability and the love of music, without regard to nationality. So she founded a youth group she called “Las Vegas Arts, Music & Education.”

Irene began by recruiting members by distributing fliers to young orchestra players and posting ads on Facebook and other social media sites. She asked her school piano teacher to serve as conductor, found inexpensive space for rehearsals, and contacted several senior care centers to see if they wanted an orchestra to perform at their facilities. Her group now plays at both senior centers and children’s hospitals, usually playing six pieces in a 40-minute concert. To cover her orchestra’s expenses, Irene organized a “slime” festival and conducts classes to teach others how to make the gooey, sticky substance that kids love to mold and stretch (her Instagram page on slime has more than 180,000 followers). “I know our performances make a difference in the lives of patients in children’s hospitals and senior centers,” said Irene. “We bring happiness to many, and get so much in return.”