Two area high school students with a passion for classical music have made it into the ranks of the Sherman Symphony Orchestra’s string section.
The young members include violist Maddi Dorris, a 15-year-old sophomore at Sherman High school, and violinist Nathan Kennedy, a 17-year-old junior at McKinney Boyd High School. After successful auditions, Kennedy was welcomed to perform with the orchestra beginning in October of last year, and Dorris was accepted earlier this month.
“I love the experience of playing with a full symphony,” Dorris said. “I’ve been trying to seek that out, so being accepted in was just amazing for me.”
Sherman Symphony Orchestra Director Daniel Dominick said high school students aren’t generally admitted into the orchestra as players, but as Dorris and Kennedy did, others their age have previously made the cut. Dominick described the SSO as a teaching orchestra with education at the core of its mission. Student players are generally enrolled at area colleges, Dominick said, including Austin College, Grayson College, Southeastern Oklahoma State University and the University of North Texas.
“Providing a professional experience for our student players, as well as for our listening audience, is our top priority,” Dominick said. “With actual professional string players leading each string section, the student players gain experience and also have some instruction and help for pieces and techniques that are more advanced — so that they can make progress as a musician. The same sort of thing happens in some of the wind and brass and percussion sections, too.”
Dorris said she became interested in classical music five years ago and has been playing the viola exclusively for the last four years. She is the current leader of the Sherman High School Orchestra’s violin section and has performed as a member of the Dallas Asian-American Youth Orchestra Chamber Group.
“I prefer classical music, because there are so many different things you can do to improve the quality of what’s played,” Dorris said. “There are so many techniques and stylistic ways of playing. Listening to one piece and another can be a completely different experience.”
Kennedy said he first got into the world of classical music at age of 5, when his father bought him his first violin. He has served as a violinist and concert master for the McKinney Independent School District’s orchestras, but also plays Irish and Celtic music on the fiddle for three different bands, which perform at bars, weddings and events across North Texas.
“It’s a way to express how you feel but also to explore what the composer intended the piece to be,” Kennedy said of classical music. “Now, it’s great because I get to play some wonderful music with a professional orchestra. It’s something not many kids my age get the chance to do.”
Dominick said he has never known classical music to be the young person’s genre of choice, but the Sherman Symphony Orchestra does offer free concerts to area students. Though the director said classical music is still widely accessible through movie scores and since the number of orchestras nationwide has grown over the last 40 years, the Sherman Symphony Orchestra is still determined to reach and involve young players and listeners.
“I think the answer really is, or will be, for as many kids to become involved in junior high and high school choir, band and orchestra, as possible,” Dominick said. “There is a general appreciation, but maybe we just need to make more opportunities to get an orchestra in front of people. If it plays well, the appreciation part might just take care of itself.”