Kansas City, January 25, 2017: Eyes closed, face down and fingers set in perfect place at the end of his cello bow, Sam Brown is a fierce competitor.
Mr. Brown is a junior at Paseo Academy of Fine and Performing Arts. He is joining Lincoln College Preparatory Academy violinist Grace Davis and alto saxophonist Morgan Faw to represent Kansas City Public Schools at the state’s premier high school music festival during the Missouri Music Educators Conference Jan. 25-28 in Osage Beach, Mo.
To even audition to play in the 2017 all-state orchestra and jazz band, Brown, Ms. Davis and Mr. Faw already had to prove that they are among the very best young musicians in Missouri during district competition last November. Brown, who is one of just 17 all-state cellists in Missouri this year, finished well at districts but not good enough for his own standards.
“I didn’t finish as high as I wanted at districts,” Brown said. “That’s why I’ve been working so hard this winter, so I can really blow people away at state.”
Hard work means three-hour rehearsals every day. That’s in addition to class time with Paseo orchestra teacher Sheree Yoder, private lessons with renowned University of Missouri-Kansas City cello professor Carter Enyeart, and serving as principal cellist in the top-tier Kansas City Youth Symphony.
“He has the right combination of passion and work ethic to become a great musician,” Ms. Yoder said.
Brown discovered his love of music performance when he took up piano as a student at Longfellow Elementary School. The cello gripped him as an eighth grader at Paseo.
“The cello sounds beautiful,” Brown said. “I just wanted to learn how to make this instrument make those sounds.”
Amid the polished brass and wood instruments set carefully in the expanse of the Paseo orchestra room, Brown launched into selections of Strauss and Brahms, wrapping the space with ropes of smoky and sweet, robust and delicate tones composed hundreds of years earlier and still alive for one young artist. They were pieces he played during his audition for the all-state orchestra.
“That tryout was a beast, but I love Brahms and Strauss,” Brown said.
During the all-state high school music festival, students will participate in about 8 hours a day of lessons, performances and one more round of competition to determine their positions in the orchestra or jazz band. A mere invitation to the event isn’t good enough for Brown, who has already been doing the work to earn the first chair among cellists.
“I’m going to be ready. I want to blow people away,” Brown said, and he meant it.