A major musician

For the first time in her music career, sophomore Aleena Li is playing the harp in the BVNW orchestra.

Li poses with the new harp.

Olivia Dowell, Writer

At age 4, sophomore Aleena Li began playing her first instrument, the piano. One year ago, she decided to learn the harp, translating of her piano skills to this new instrument.  On average, Li practices six hours a week.

“I wasn’t enjoying the violin a whole lot, so my parents asked me if I wanted to start another instrument,” Li said. “I kind of wanted to do one that not a lot of people play, and I thought that since the harp is kind of similar to the piano…that would make it easier for me to catch up and learn how to play it.”

Orchestra teacher Mike Arbucci began working with Li when she started violin at Harmony Middle School in sixth grade.

“Aleena is a really talented musician. Not just any student can play as many instruments as she does but it goes beyond that,” Arbucci said. “She’s able to transfer the skills from instrument to instrument and become very adept at playing them.”

Arbucci said Li plays the violin, her primary instrument, more in orchestra class than the harp, but will play the harp more this year.

“If the piece we are doing has a harp part, then she’ll play the harp,” Arbucci said.  “She will play the harp at our December concert and in the spring concerts.”

Junior and friend of Li, Hannah Thurlby, said the harp is a hard instrument to pick up, but Li caught on very quickly.

“The harp is really cool, and I think it’s awesome that she just picked that up,” Thurlby said. “She is doing so good at it, I remember like two weeks after she started playing it, I went over to her house, and she was already playing a song.”

Li is involved in the Johnson County Community College and Baker University orchestra, where she plays violin and may be starting harp for both this year.

Thurlby is also a member of the JCCC and Baker University orchestra. Thurlby said after playing with Li in two orchestras, she found Li has a natural way of connecting with the music.

“She’s just a very graceful player. She definitely has a natural talent for what she does and I can tell she really enjoys it,” Thurlby said.  “She always moves with the music and she’s very talented.”

Li said she enjoys playing the harp so far and appreciates the work put into having it here at BVNW.

“I’m super lucky and super grateful that Mr. Arbucci put in the time to ask the district and to try and convince them to bring the harp to the school,” Li said. “I’m really looking forward to [having] it and I think it’s super cool.”

Arbucci said BVNW had an older harp they shared with Blue Valley Southwest.  After Li began playing the harp, BVNW purchased a new harp to replace the older one, which was loaned to BVSW. The new harp cost $16,000.

“So this harp is actually a better harp, it’s a brand new harp, it’s made by Lyon and Healy in Chicago and it is a 47-string concert harp,” Arbucci said. “It has an incredibly large range from the low sounds to the high sounds of the harp, which is great for an orchestra setting.”

Arbucci said he believes Li has a big future with music in not only the rest of high school, but for post-high school as well due to her high level of talent.

“She has a bright future with music. If she decides to major or minor in something to do with piano or violin or harp or maybe even all three, she’ll be very successful,” Arbucci said. “Beyond that, she has the opportunity to audition for district orchestra and All-State for this year and for that I expect a very good showing.”

Li said music is a big part of her life and her future. She is considering majoring in music education.

“I know this sounds really cliché, but I could never imagine my life without music,” Li said. “I am discovering new ways to use my music.”