How a string instrument led to a $100K phone call

Abbotsford’s Kai Chow was introduced to the violin at just four years old. What once felt like a chore has now grown into a passion.

By Joti Grewal | May 19, 2022 |5:00 am

The phone call Kai Chow had been waiting for came while he was still in class. He excused himself to answer.

The Grade 12 Abbotsford student had been waiting to learn if, out of the thousands across the country who applied, he was one of 35 kids selected for a $100,000 scholarship.

Story continues below.

Get FV Current in your inbox.

Plug in to the news that matters in Abbotsford, Chilliwack, Mission, and the rest of the Fraser Valley.

By filling out the form above, you consent to receive emails from Fraser Valley Current. You can unsubscribe at any time. View our privacy policy here.

Having trouble with the form? Contact us at contact@fvcurrent.com.

“When the lady called from the foundation I was scared because it was sort of ambiguous: ‘Oh, we hope you’ve enjoyed your time with us so far,’” Chow said, recounting the phone call.

Then the representative from the Loran Scholars Foundation finally broke the good news: Chow was officially a Loran Scholar.

“It was pretty special and really exciting,” he said.

In addition to the monetary prize for tuition, Chow will receive money for living expenses, one-on-one mentorship, opportunities for summer work and learning experiences locally or abroad, and annual leadership retreats with his fellow scholars.

He hasn’t finalized his plans for life after W.J. Mouat Secondary, but says he is 99% sure he’ll be attending McGill University in Montreal to study biological, biomedical, and life sciences.

It wasn’t Chow’s focus on academics that won him the award; it was his commitment to his work outside the classroom. The Loran Scholars Foundation recognizes students beyond conventional measures like grades. Chow was rewarded for his community work, as well as his mental health and diversity initiatives.

Chow is the Concertmaster of Sinfonietta, a string ensemble at the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra, where he formed and chairs a youth council. During the pandemic, Chow co-organized a virtual performance featuring 40 violinists from across the country. And once a week he teaches music at an Abbotsford school that provides lessons to children for free.

Playing music at the highest level has taught Chow about discipline, work ethic, responsibility, and the drive to strive to be better—something he’s taken on with initiatives outside of music.

Chow fundraised $4,000 for Foundry Abbotsford, which offers services for youth and families for mental health. During multicultural week at school, he organized the first-ever food fair that included a variety of foods from different ethnic communities.

“In terms of diversity initiatives, this has been something that I’ve tried to take on both in orchestra and in school,” he said. “I think there’s often the stereotype of who goes to concerts, and who composers are, who musicians are, and trying to rethink those lowers the age of who’s coming to the concert hall, making it more accessible to people.”

The key to that is engaging the youth, according to Chow. Like when he and his orchestra members published a podcast episode highlighting underrepresented voices—like women in music.

“It’s little initiatives like that that I think can add up to make a difference eventually, hopefully,” he said.

In addition to his multitude of school and extracurricular commitments, Chow spends roughly four to five hours each day practicing. That doesn’t include a day-long practice he has with his coach in Vancouver every Saturday.

Influenced by his father, Chow began playing the violin at four years old. When he first started learning the instrument, it wasn’t exactly his favourite pastime. That quickly changed as music began to open doors to other opportunities. Chow performed and competed in music, earning numerous accolades. He was only 15 years old when he made his solo debut with the VSO.

Growing up practicing music felt like a chore, but now Chow will voluntarily be up at 6am to practice on his own. He just gets mixed feelings at times about another musical genius, his dad, in the house.

“I’ll get a phone call at 6am being like, ‘That note is out of tune. Why are you so loud? Put on your metronome,’’ Chow said laughing.

But he admits he really does enjoy having someone at home “who knows what they’re doing,” and that his music has grown into a passion.

“I really love it now,” he said. “It’s part of my life and I can’t give it up. It’s been the pillar of so many things.”

Join more than 25,000 other Fraser Valley residents by subscribing to our newsletter. Every weekday morning you’ll get a new feature story and other stories, news, and events from Chilliwack, Abbotsford, Langley, Mission and the rest of the valley. See a recent newsletter here.

We’re bringing independent, local-first, in-depth reporting to serve you and our community.

Subscribe for free and plug in to the news that matters in Abbotsford, Chilliwack, Mission, and the rest of the Fraser Valley.

By filling out the form above, you consent to receive emails from Fraser Valley Current. You can unsubscribe at any time. View our privacy policy here.

Having trouble with the form? Contact us at contact@fvcurrent.com.

Joti Grewal

Reporter at Fraser Valley Current

Tags in this Article

Latest Articles

The key news happening in the Fraser Valley.

Environment   News

February 8, 2023

Can better salmon habitats also curtail mosquitoes?

Building fish-friendly wetlands doesn’t mean having to battle large populations of mosquitoes, a local expert says.

News

February 5, 2023

The magic of a senior’s homemade talk show

One senior’s cure for her social anxiety? A homemade TV talk show that has confirmed that ‘we’re all basically the same.’