Kevin Seto: A maestro of string theory
At the age of 4, most children are learning their ABCs; Kevin Seto received a violin from his parents.
Fast-forward 16 years, and Seto is one of the most brilliant and accomplished music students at Florida Gulf Coast University. In 2013, he won the Young Arts and Julian Prescott Awards, and was also a finalist for the Sanibel Big Arts Award.
“I’ll never forget when one of my colleagues asked, ‘have you heard Kevin Seto play the violin?’” related Head of Music Education and Associate Professor of Music Louise Patrick. “Two or three Wednesdays after that, at a student recital, I heard Kevin play (violin) for the first time. I was truly blown away. Not only was he extremely efficient at the violin, but for a virtual unknown, he was one of the best players I had ever heard. He could just make that violin sing. We are lucky to have him.”
Seto grew up and still lives in Pembroke Pines, Florida with his mother, father and older brother Stephen. Seto went to Pembroke Lakes Elementary, the Walter Young Middle School and Charles W. Flanagan High School. At the age of 5, Stephen started playing piano, and eventually Seto followed suit with the violin.
“My mother and father were looking for activities for my older brother to do. At the time, he was approximately 5 years old, and they got him one of those cheap Yamaha pianos,” Seto said. “They put him on the piano, he was just banging on it, and that’s when they realized that he should start taking piano lessons.
“They looked for ways to get him involved with music, because it is a confusing thing at first,” Seto said. “They eventually found someone, and he took lessons at a camp at the University of Miami. That very summer, my mother saw a bunch of 4-year-old violinists, and she said that they were the cutest things that she had ever seen. So, that’s how she put me on the violin.”
During the years leading up to high school, his mother was supportive of his chosen extracurricular activities.
“When coming into the world of music, I was never forced by my mom to do any of it,” Seto said. “She wanted to see me grow musically but she never forced me. That’s why she put me into activities like baseball. She always supported the paintballing addiction I had at the time. I think she put me in it always knowing that I would eventually fully commit myself to music, but it was just a matter of time.”
Seto’s true introduction to music came in high school.
“High school was great,” he said. “In my freshman year, I started out in the ROTC (Reserve Officers’ Training Corps) program, but then I switched over to a class taught by Thomas Moore. Even when I was doing the ROTC, I was still playing violin. I just wasn’t as serious about it as I should have been. Mr. Moore showed me how to enjoy music and how much fun music could really be.”
That year, Seto earned the right of first chair.
“Earning the right was one of the most wonderful moments of my life,” he said. “It’s very important to stay humble, look at your colleagues, continue to help them out and address issues. You should also take what they say into consideration, and learn from that.”
By the 10th grade, Seto made the full transition to becoming a musician.
“During high school, there was a period in my life, which I considered to be my development stage,” he said. “During that time, I discovered my own inner playing, and for the first time, felt music; I understood what composers were trying to get across.”
After graduating from high school, Seto was accepted into the Boston Conservatory. Halfway through his freshman year, he transferred to FGCU. There, he met Head of Music Education and Associate Professor of Music Louise Patrick.
“I met Kevin Seto when he came to us during the second semester of his freshman year,” Patrick said. “I was his class piano instructor. I found him to be extremely musical.” Since that year, Patrick has attended all of Seto’s concerts.
As a sophomore, Seto took first chair once again. At the beginning of his junior year, Seto became acquainted with Director of Orchestral Activities David Cole. To date, Seto is taking orchestra and chamber courses with Cole.
“Kevin has shown himself to be both an amazing musician and an amazing person,” Cole said. “He’s got this really great work ethic. He’s always working hard to make himself better, and is always encouraging others to do the same. I think he’s got really good technical skills, musical skills, and he’s going to continue to mature and grow as a musician; it’s a great thing to watch. He brings his best every day.”
After graduating from college, Seto wants to apply for orchestral positions, and collaborate with his brother so he can tour around the world.
“I’ll do a lot with the violin,” Seto said. “I’ll do some private teaching as well. I look forward to teaching students, because I know what it takes to motivate them. I can tell them to continue doing sports, but also to commit some time to learning music, because when they are older, they will get a lot out of it.”