Student in Focus: Jessica Cao, Musician


Jessica Cao ('23)

Jessica Cao (‘23) plays the violin in a concert as the crowd watches admiringly.

Have you ever heard of someone who discovered a lifelong talent and passion at the age of three?  

Jessica Cao (‘23) was introduced to the violin in her kindergarten music classes, where she slowly fostered a love for its sharp tones and finicky strings. This love for music has only grown throughout her life, where she has performed in various competitions and shows. Currently, she sits in the second chair in the orchestra and even composes segments of string performances.  

Jessica has always had the support of teachers and family members throughout her journey of learning how to play the violin. When she was in fourth grade, she traveled from Ningbo to Shanghai to seek out a high-quality violin teacher. She wanted to find a teacher that would help spark interest in the instrument, but also teach her a multitude of important lessons with the violin. 

“He was a very enlightening teacher, and he gave me a lot of very precious advice,” Jessica said. “Even though he only taught me for three years, my interest in music and violin was kindled by that teacher.” 

She has played in multiple competitions that pushed her to practice and gave her daily motivation. It was admittedly hard for her to independently remind herself to practice, but the international competitions kept her spirits high, and she practiced consistently. Although Jessica had fun participating, the academic stress and workload at Webb have put a pause on her participation at music events.  

When Jessica was in junior high, she noticed that when her stress levels were higher, the violin would soothe her mind and gave her the ability to express her emotions through music. To Jessica, it was eye-opening how the violin had grown into not just an instrument, but a key component of her life.  

Currently, Jessica plays the second chair in the Webb orchestra. Kyle Champion, the orchestra conductor, gives students a ten-bar section during songs to play an impromptu composition.  

“When I asked if anyone was interested, she immediately said, ‘I’d like to give that a try!’” Mr. Champion said. “It’s not something that classical musicians are necessarily comfortable with, but this is another example of standing out beyond what most of us do.”  

Mr. Champion recognized her as a high-level violinist and a student that takes the instrument and leadership seriously. Although she plays on the first stand, she leads by example and is willing to work with some of the less experienced players and help them learn their own parts. 

“She has gone to the second violin and played some of [the student’s] parts when they were struggling, so they had something to listen to and gravitate towards,” Mr. Champion said. “I totally see her playing violin through college and probably at a high level wherever she ends up.” 

With all this inspiration and work, it would seem shocking that initially, she had no intention of pursuing the violin. It was her mom’s encouragement that pushed her to keep playing. 

“It is hard to force a three-year-old girl to stand there for an hour and play horrible music,” Jessica said. “It has become a habit for me now. I thought about abandoning [the violin] in elementary school, but I felt as though I would regret it.” 

Jessica plans to pursue a minor in music in college to ensure that she does not lose the time and motivation to continue playing the violin. She refuses to be compensated for her music through a professional job, and will play on her own, but remains open to conducting opportunities in the future.  

*If you would like to listen to some of Jessica’s music, please contact Nancy Lin (’23)!