We recently had the chance to catch up with PALCS alumnus, Vinh Le, and learn about what he has been up to since graduating from PALCS. As a member of the Class of 2015, Vinh had first enrolled at PALCS in 2005 as a 5th grader. He was a member of the National Honor Society, served as the Editor-in-Chief of the Student Government Observer, and was the chairman of the Student Legislative Initiative committee which drafted real legislation that was brought to the Pennsylvania Senate. Vinh has been playing the piano for the past 15 years; with a passion for music, he recently released his very first music video – a piano medley of the themes in the Lord of the Rings soundtrack.
In the interview below, we spoke with Vinh about his journey at PALCS, what he’s been up to since graduating, and his music.
Vinh’s Time at PALCS
PALCS Question: Why did you choose to first enroll in a cyber school?
Vinh Le Answer: I chose to enroll in a cyber school because I needed the flexibility. At my old elementary school, I had a good time, but always seemed to get sick. It wasn’t until a little later that we realized the problem: my intolerance to gluten. Once I made the switch to PALCS, though, I never looked back.
Q: With so many cyber school options in PA, why/how did you come to the decision of choosing PALCS over the rest?
A: Finding PALCS is something I have to give my parents credit for. They wanted me to have a quality education, so they really did the research. PALCS came up as a highly-rated school with a clear mission and a dedicated team. I recall that my family attended an in-person presentation about what the school was all about, and we were all very impressed.
Q: In what ways did enrolling at PALCS benefit you and your family?
A: PALCS gave me access to teachers who really cared. I remember being engaged in all of my classes. Whether it was taking advanced math classes, reading more history, learning about bacterial diseases, or studying physics calculations, I felt like I was truly learning and not just memorizing.
PALCS also allowed me to learn computer science hands-on. Until that point, I hadn’t ever used a computer. Once I started, I was able to experiment with coding and software (I am now a computer science minor at college). PALCS also allowed me to continue my musical education. I had time to practice the piano because I could modify my schedule and still get schoolwork done.
Q: How was your experience with socialization at PALCS?
A: Socialization was great. The chat rooms let me interact with students and teachers easily. As the technology progressed, communication was easier and faster. In fact, the year before I graduated, I made some friends from Student Government through the software Zoom (which I believe PALCS now uses) [Note from PALCS: yes, we do use Zoom for our live virtual lessons, office hours, homework help, and open chats with students], and we formed, humorously enough, “The Fellowship of Zoom”. That friendship still continues strong to this day.
Indeed, cyber school in no way inhibited my social life. In fact, it gave me freedom to get involved in extracurricular activities that let me meet plenty of other people.
Q: How did attending PALCS help prepare you for your future?
A: PALCS taught me self-motivation. There were days when no one was telling me what to do and I just had to sit down, form a schedule, and stick to it. That habit stuck with me and has allowed me to be tremendously productive even with the stress of college, work, and preparing for graduate school.
Q: After graduating from PALCS, what did you pursue?
A: I went to Messiah College to study biology as a major and computer science as a minor. I was blessed with a scholarship that I could not have achieved without PALCS’ integral role in developing my character. At Messiah, I have a wonderful social life and am doing well academically because of how PALCS prepared me early on.
Q: What are you up to these days?
A: This summer, I’m preparing for graduate school entrance exams and getting experience shadowing at a local hospital. I’m also hoping to have a little time to produce more music for my YouTube channel.
Q: What are some of your interests/hobbies/activities? Academically? Personally?
A: Academically, I’m very interested in biology, law, and physics. Personally, I love playing piano, composing music, making films, building websites, learning code, running, reading, and writing.
Q: What are some goals you hope to accomplish in the future?
A: I have a lot of interests, and career-wise, I’m trying to decide what I ultimately would like to do. One of my goals is to work towards improving medical/bioinformatics technology to help treat some of the more complex diseases and conditions out there. Another goal is to use my music skills not only to entertain people, but also to bring attention to issues that our world needs to be more aware of.
Q: Where did your love for music come from?
A: When I was a baby, my Dad used to play CDs of music by Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert, Chopin, Rachmaninoff – you name it. It must have soaked in, because as I grew older, I developed an intense passion for music (especially the classical and soundtrack genres). My parents were both very encouraging as I took piano lessons and matured as a musician.
Q: Do you write your own music? Do you play any other instruments other than piano?
A: I sure do. I love to compose, especially since I first learned music through improvisation. Then, from 7 on, I was taught the traditional method of sight-reading, so that was a blessing. But the process of creating music is still what I love most. As far as other instruments, I also play organ, and I’d love to pick up violin in the future.
Q: What are you currently working on?
A: I’m working on a song about Syria; I don’t know if I want to release it to the public or not, but it is still a project that I care a lot about. I’m also trying to get more impromptu soundtrack covers out for my YouTube channel. Finally, my friends and I are planning a new music video, which is very exciting! Once I get back to college, it’s going to be hard to do anything extracurricular because of the classes I’m taking, so I want to use any precious moments of free time this summer to finish those projects.
Q: Can you tell us about your music video? How did it all come to be?
A: As an avid fan of the Lord of the Rings trilogy, I was in love with the idea of creating a piano medley of musical themes from the soundtrack, then releasing it in a YouTube music video. I first spoke to Messiah College film major Josh Lindquist about the idea in September of 2016. Eventually, he brought film majors Sam Eisenhower and Meagan Mcllhenny onto the team. Because of intense school schedules, the medley was not finished until Christmas break of 2016.
On Thursday, January 5, 2017, our team spent the morning recording multiple takes of the arrangement on a piano in the High Center. On Friday, the first music cut was assembled from the best takes. On Saturday, we were granted access to Parmer Hall (the school’s concert hall) for filming of the actual video. What was originally planned to be a four-hour shoot turned into a thirteen-hour shoot as we attempted to cover all angles and capture the scope of Parmer Hall.
Editing the ten-minute music video took three months (primarily because of school work), and Sam Eisenhower spent countless hours poring over footage to craft a compelling and enjoyable visual experience. On the other side of campus, it took me many weeks and dozens of tries (only on weekends and breaks) to achieve the right sound mix for the music. My roommate Scott also helped with additional editing and color correction.
Then, there was the bureaucracy, which involved negotiating a license with Universal Studios and, of course, composer Howard Shore. Both approved, and I was super excited when I heard that Howard Shore had seen the video personally and liked it!
For me, the video has already been successful – not merely because of numbers (though those have been a blessing), but because it has brought together people from different backgrounds to achieve a common vision. The reaction thus far has been amazing, far exceeding what I expected for a first music video. So many people were so willing to share it and show their support, and this has encouraged me to continue putting up music in the future.
I have a lot of hopes for this particular video in the months to come. I hope it inspires people to have an interest in music, particularly piano music. I hope it demonstrates that young people can achieve amazing things. But most importantly, in a time in which there is so much division and conflict in the world, I believe that the universal language of music can be used to bring people together. There is no better message to convey through music than that of The Lord of the Rings, with its timeless themes of hope, fellowship, courage, and love.
We would like to thank Vinh for taking the time to speak with us about everything, we are so proud of all of his wonderful accomplishments and to have him represent PALCS out in the world. We love getting the opportunity to catch up with PALCS alumni to see where life has taken them and all they continue to accomplish. Our students’ of the past, present and future have always and will always be a part our PALCS community.