Socrates Hwang: Champion of the Arts


By Jessica Palmer, Staff Writer

Music or art? Why make such a hard decision when you can do both? Senior Socrates Hwang has been involved in the art and music programs at West for the past four years. This has been a great way for him to start his musical journey in high school and meet new people.

“I started when I went to marching band camp before my freshman year, that was when I met all the cool people in band and decided it to do it in school,” Hwang said.

Award winning band director Justin Johnson has been able to see Hwang grow as a person and as a musician.

“My first impressions of Socrates were of how genuine his love for music was. He has always been an artist at heart and he has continued to impress with both his talents in anything percussion, but also with his excellence as a jazz vibraphonist and an amazing visual artist. Even though Socrates wasn’t even in his band program in middle school, he has contributed a tremendous amount to the program here at Niles West and I am grateful for his willingness to share his talents with us,” Johnson said.

Classmate, band mate and friend Alex Lu shares his marching band experience with Hwang for the past four years.

“We’ve been friends since 8th grade. Marching band was pretty much what I would call my whole high school experience but it wouldn’t have been the same without Socrates. He made marching band memorable with his tenor playing, sense of humor, especially his laugh, and his leadership. Both of us putting our hard work and hearts into marching band developed our friendship even more and I wouldn’t have done this with anyone else,” Lu said.

Hwang puts in a lot of hard work into what he is passionate about, and it shows.

“Socrates has always shown great potential as a musician but his musical growth can be attributed to his willingness to accept information/critique and in his amazing work ethic. Great musicians always always strive to get better everyday and Socrates has modeled that for the entire time that he has been a part of the program. He has cultivated a habit of a great work ethic and that trait will definitely lead him to success,” Johnson said.

Hwang has been selected to participate in the jazz combo at the Illinois Music Education Association District 7 festival and the Illinois Music Educators Conference jazz band. Not only does he have musical achievements, Hwang was also awarded the Principal’s Recognition Award for Visual Arts.

“It felt pretty good, Ms. Sortino made a really long, very sappy, speech for me, and that was very nice. Ms. Sortino always has the best in mind for her students and she really pushes me. Everyone needs a Tino in their life,” Hwang said.

Award winning art teacher Deanna Sortino nominated him for the award.

“I have seen Socrates using his activism a lot more in his artwork which has been wonderful to see. He also is an incredibly independent artist and I feel like the older he gets, [he gets] more confident in his artistic voice. Just seeing that ability in him to go above and beyond every single time has been one of the greatest things I’ve gotten to witness and see him grow with,” Sortino said.

Hwang has created multiple powerful art pieces relating to the current events at that time.

“I think his pieces based off of activism are my favorite. He created a piece for our Black Lives Matter project that we did, and it was a very powerful piece and it was actually published in Mosaic Magazine as well. Also, when we did a project with the artist Ndubisi Okoye, that was when all the hate crime towards the AAPI community was really prevalent, so he created a piece in response to that, that was also absolutely beautiful and incredibly powerful. Those are the two pieces that I’ll remember the most from Socrates,” Sortino said.

Socrates is not only involved in the fine arts at West, he also is a member and leader of multiple clubs.

“I am the co-president of Fem club, on the board of PASA, the Pan Asian Student Association, and I am the co-president of Graphic Arts club. I was also in marching band and our season just ended,” Hwang said.

Whether it’s in the band room, in Ms. Sortino’s room or just in class, Hwang always finds a way to dazzle everyone with his artistic ability and strong work ethic.