When Andrew Young (18) first picked up a French horn, he was just playing for fun. He wasn’t dreaming of performing with famous artists or in Super Bowl ads. But now, just a year after graduating from PLNU, Young has done both of those things. He is the hornist on Chance the Rapper’s new album, which is slated to come out this summer, and he played in a 2019 Super Bowl ad starring Magic Johnson – among many other musical accomplishments.
“When I started music in elementary school, I was never too serious about it,” he said. “I was more into sports and academics until about halfway through high school. That’s when lessons opened my eyes to the greater world of what you could do with music.”
Young grew up in Fresno, picking up French horn in fifth grade at the encouragement of a teacher who thought he would be good at it. He played mainly at school, giving more attention to soccer until high school. That’s when he began to take private lessons, joined a youth orchestra, and realized how much he could potentially do with music.
“Ever since I started doing it, I really loved it,” he said.
Despite the success Young has already experienced through his instrument, music isn’t even his day job. He spends his days in the biotech industry, working in product development at a San Diego company called BioLegend. Nights and weekends, he teaches music lessons, plays gigs in San Diego or Los Angeles, or performs in recording studios in L.A.
At PLNU, Young was a biology major who had scholarships for both academics and music. In 2017, he became the first recipient of the Shu & Cotten Endowed Scholarship, presented to a non-music major with extraordinary involvement in the PLNU music department.
In 2017, he became the first recipient of the Shu & Cotten Endowed Scholarship, presented to a non-music major with extraordinary involvement in the PLNU music department.
Young’s mother and sister are both PLNU alumni, but it wasn’t just their influence that led him to choose the university. After breaking his ankle during high school and being forced to take a break from soccer, Young decided he wanted to find a place where he could pursue music along with another academic subject. He thought he might prefer to play club soccer rather than pursuing a soccer scholarship.
His first meeting with a college horn professor at another school was discouraging. The teacher was more critical than encouraging. That’s when he met with PLNU’s John Dally, associate professor of music and director of bands and music education.
“When I met Andrew, his musical talents were obvious,” Dally said. “He had a great sound and it was clear that he loved making music.”
“Professors at PLNU are very different than other places,” Young said. “They really individually care about their students beyond academics and performance. Meeting with John Dally my junior year was a really positive, encouraging time. I realized [coming to PLNU] was the natural, best choice to make.”
The rigors of pursuing music and biology in college helped Young learn to manage his time well. It also pushed him to develop his ability to sight-read music, which is one of the things that has helped set him apart as an artist.
“In college, I didn’t have as much time to practice as I did in high school and summers,” he said. “So I would spend my practice time sight-reading difficult etudes. This not only helped me be a better musician, but also helped me learn and remember things at a first read.”
“As a student at PLNU, Andrew played everywhere,” Dally said. “Chapel, band, orchestra, opera, choir … everywhere. His selfless mentality truly embodied a servant’s heart. As a music department, we believe in the value of music making. Andrew is an example of someone who embraced the idea that music transcends majors. In the end, a bigger calling is to share God’s gifts with others.”
As a music department, we believe in the value of music making. Andrew is an example of someone who embraced the idea that music transcends majors. In the end, a bigger calling is to share God’s gifts with others.
Starting his sophomore year, Young started getting calls to play French horn outside PLNU. At first, most of his gigs were with churches. Later, he started performing with the San Diego City Ballet. He also began playing with a large group of 30 or so horn players called Hornswoggle.
“The range of our instrument is about four-and-a-half octaves,” Young said. “So you can do a choir piece, and it works really well.”
The Hornswoggle conductor and arranger, John Lorge, had a significant influence on Young. Though he recently passed away, Young is still benefiting from knowing Lorge.
“As a player, director, composer and believer, John was one of the most inspiring figures in my musical life since moving to San Diego,” Young said. “He was someone I could relate to with his history of recording and working in L.A. as well as glean advice from when he would tell stories about his tenure as principal horn in the San Diego Symphony. Whether he was behind the baton or sitting next to me in a section, he had so much wisdom to impart that I couldn’t help but grow. Beyond that, he was a perfect example of how you can be a kind, humorous person while holding yourself and everyone around you to the highest standard of excellence.”
These lessons helped when Young first worked with CMG Music Recording, the contracting company in L.A. that has led to much of his professional work. His first recording experience also occurred while he was a student at PLNU.
“I did an album with James Spaite (16) and James Bishop (17) … After that, the company we worked with continued to contact me. If they like you and your sound, they will keep giving you gigs,” he said.
Young recently played for the movie The Bad Seed, directed by Rob Lowe, who also stars in the film. He has also done other work with Warner Bros. and Sony. In the “East versus West” Super Bowl commercial with Magic Johnson, the musicians were filmed as well as recorded, and Young can be seen in a brief cameo.
In San Diego, Young plays regularly at San Diego First Church of the Nazarene, where he runs the brass and woodwinds sections. He also plays in a brass ensemble at La Jolla Presbyterian Church and with a lot of community orchestras.
“Using our gifts to participate in worship is one of the highest callings we can have as musicians,” he said. “I enjoy giving back to churches by playing and supporting their services.”
Young values the fact that having multiple interests has allowed him to get to know a lot of people.
“It’s nice having people from different life areas come to support you,” he said. “I’ve had co-workers from BioLegend come see me perform at the Nutcracker.”
Young enjoys practicing in the atrium of BioLegend’s building, not only because of the good acoustics but also because it allows him to share his music with others.
Using our gifts to participate in worship is one of the highest callings we can have as musicians,” he said. “I enjoy giving back to churches by playing and supporting their services.
“As a musician and a Christian, I try to go about life not necessarily trying to evangelize everyone I meet but trying to interact with people and show respect and love on them in a way that exhibits the love of Christ,” he said. Sharing his musical ability is one way he can give to others.
Doing biology and music as a student is what set the stage for Young to continue pursuing both his passions the way he is today. Eventually, Young knows he might have to choose to become more focused on one of the areas. To do his own research or teach in biology, he might eventually decide to go back for a graduate degree. To go into a full-time music career, he might need to fully devote himself to practicing and investing time there. But for now, doing both is a lot of work but work Young loves.