Senior poses a triple threat

by Levi Gilbert

For Jevin Tzeng, it’s all about focus.

The soon-to-be graduate of Conway High School has spread himself pretty thin the last few years, balancing academics, violin and soccer and excelling in all three.

“It all starts with my parents,” Tzeng said. “They didn’t push me, but they always had a mentality for me to strive for excellence. Don’t go halfway. If you start something, you want to finish it.

“Violin, school and soccer are all similar in that you have to have the discipline to practice. You’re not going to do well on a test or a game if you don’t put in the time.”

Jevin Tzeng.

As of press time, Jevin was ranked second in his senior class of more than 600 students with a 4.33 GPA. He’s first chair in violin for the Conway High School Orchestra, and he plays for the varsity soccer team.

“There’s three things, but it’s almost like there’s only enough time to really focus on two of them,” he said. “Focuses change throughout the day. In January I had a senior solo to prepare for, so violin took up a lot of my focus. If I have a soccer game that day, I pour my focus into that.

“Academics is the main focus, and a lot of time I just have to decide whether I’m going to focus on soccer or violin that day and then hit my homework that night after a game or rehearsal. My coach and director realize I have a lot of commitments. They understand and help to work around my schedule.”

Tzeng is a National Merit Finalist and received the AP Scholar with Distinction Award, among other academic honors. His composite ACT score is an astonishing 35. He is fielding offers from several colleges, including the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville and Vanderbilt University. Despite all of his academic achievements, he’s most proud of something he accomplished with his violin.

“Last year I got first chair in the Arkansas Senior High All-State Orchestra,” he said. “It came as a complete surprise to me. There was a time when I got a little burned out on violin. My parents told me I would regret quitting it. It was joining the orchestra in the eighth grade that renewed my passion for the violin.

“My mindset prior to that was of being a soloist. But when you get into an orchestra, you are one of 50 or more. You’re just an aspect of the entire thing. You can play like a soloist, but it won’t make the entirety of the sound any good.”

Being one ingredient in a larger recipe drove Jevin individually in a different way than being a soloist ever had before.

“The challenge of being a small part of the whole made me want to work harder,” Tzeng said. “Plus, there is a sense of competition because everyone wants to be the best in their section. When I first started, I was in the back of the second violin section.

“Seeing all those people in front of me gave me a drive to improve myself. Getting first chair at All-State was the climax of it all. It was something tangible to see how far you can go.”

Jevin admits that trying to do it all in high school can be a bit stressful at times, but that he wouldn’t change his approach.

“It’s not for everyone,” he said. “Some people might be really super good at one thing, and if that’s what they want to focus on, then that’s OK. I’m not fantastically amazing at everything I do, but I just have a mentality of working hard to be the best I can be at whatever I do.

“Outside of being responsible and respectful, it’s not always about how good you are, but how good you are with people. There’s importance in making relationships, having those connections and being in the right place at the right time. It’s not always random – you can put yourself in the situation to get those important connections. Who you choose to spend time with and make relationships with makes a lot of difference.

“I feel like in high school, and in youth in general, it’s good to try a bunch of different things. You don’t know where it will take you. Opportunities are given to you. You might as well take them and see where it goes.”