Photo by Heather Middleton
By Curt Yeomans
Lovejoy High School senior, Darrel Jones, said his interest in playing string instruments began when he was in the third grade, watching a video on string instruments in a music class.
"It's just had a long-lasting impact on me," he said. "I don't know why it had such an impact on me at the time, but it did."
So, when he got to middle school, he began playing the viola. He really wanted to play the violin, which is similar to the viola, but he said his orchestra teacher insisted he had the long arms, and big hands, that are better suited for the viola. This past summer, Jones, 17, began taking violin lessons from Lovejoy High School's orchestra teacher, Stephen Lawrence, and now plays both instruments regularly.
And, his interest in string instruments is about to pay off. He said he found out just last week, that he will soon be performing at one of the most famous performance halls in the nation -- the 119-year-old Carnegie Hall, in New York City.
He said he has been accepted as one of 16 high school violists, from across the U.S., and Canada, to participate in the 2011 American High School Honors Performance Series, at Carnegie Hall, in February 2011.
"I was extremely excited when I found out I had been accepted into the program," Jones said. "I still am, actually. I've never been to New York City before, so this will be my first time, and I'm going to be performing at one of the most well-known halls in the U.S."
Jones is scheduled to spend a week at Carnegie Hall, from Feb. 14, to Feb. 18, studying orchestra performance under a professional conductor, he said. At the end of the week, on Feb. 19, the students participating in the performance series will give a concert on Carnegie Hall's stage.
The stage at Carnegie Hall has hosted a multitude of famous musicians and composers over the years, including Pyotr Tchaikovsky, Leonard Bernstein, Luciano Pavarotti, Yo-Yo Ma, Louis Armstrong, the Beatles, David Bowie, and Stevie Wonder, according to the hall's web site.
"It makes me feel important, and honored, to be so young, and playing at Carnegie Hall on something I enjoy doing," Jones said.
While he can not remember what first got him hooked on string instruments, he is very clear on why he has continued to be interested throughout the years. "I like the sound, and the technique, and the thing you can do with a string instrument," he said. "It's very lyrical sounding, like a voice. I just like how you can imitate the sound of a person's voice on a string instrument."
And, Jones does well with both the viola and violin, said his teacher, Stephen Lawrence. According to a list of Jones' accomplishments, provided by Lawrence, the youth has held principal viola positions in Lovejoy High School's Chamber Orchestra, and Clayton County Public Schools' All-County High School Honor Orchestra, and he has participated in the Southern Crescent Symphony Orchestra, and the Spivey Hall Chamber Workshop.
Jones said he also found out he has been selected to advance to state-wide auditions for the Georgia Music Educators Association's All-State Honor Orchestra, in January -- for both viola, and violin. Lawrence said Jones had to first audition last month at the region 6 level, which includes Clayton, Henry and Fayette counties, to be selected to advance to the state-wide stage of auditions.
"He just has an innate sense of how something works in music, that you really don't see all of the time," Lawrence said. The teacher added that his student has a "natural ability" to play string instruments, and he was confident Jones had the talent to earn a spot in the American High School Honors Performance Series. He added that he was a bit nervous, though, as he waited to hear if his student had been selected.
"We were standing together, when he opened the envelope from the organizers of the series," Lawrence said. "When we saw that he had been accepted, I think I screamed louder than he did."