MOUNT VERNON — While their peers are enjoying a day off school, Mount Vernon High School’s Sarah Lord (senior) and Caleb Zak (junior) are hard at work. The pair are rehearsing with the Ohio Music Education Association’s (OMEA) All-State Orchestra in Cleveland.
Lord and Zak were selected to join the honorary ensemble based on their performance in the preliminary East Central Regional Orchestra last November. Both are veterans of the regional event, but have never qualified for the state level.
“I didn’t believe it at first,” said Lord. “I was really excited because it’s my senior year and I thought that’d be something really cool to do.”
The orchestra had day-long rehearsals Wednesday and Thursday and will practice again Friday morning in preparation for its performance that day at the Huntington Convention Center of Cleveland at 2 p.m. The featured pieces include “The Cowboys Overture” by John Williams, “Into the Silent Land” by Steve Danyew and the fourth movement of Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 4 — all challenging works. The musicians received sheet music a few months ago and have been practicing on their own, but the ensemble did not rehearse together as a whole until Wednesday.
“Not only do those students get to perform with other students of super high caliber, they’ll play some fantastic music because everybody’s at that level, so they can really test their skills,” said Springer. “It’s almost like a professional orchestra at that stage.”
In addition to playing in the MVHS and All-State Orchestra, Lord has been a member of the Mansfield Symphony Youth Orchestra since her freshman year. She also competes on her school’s tennis, bowling and softball teams, is the treasurer of key club and is a member of the National Honor Society. She has been playing piano since the first grade.
Lord said that the transcendence she feels while playing is one of her favorite things about being a musician.
“When you play with a really good orchestra, how you feel inside, it’s like an out-of-body experience,” she said. “I love meeting new people, some of my best friends play with me and I think there’s so much to learn about it that has parallels with your life.”
The most rewarding part for Zak, who also composes his own music, is the outlet for creativity that music provides.
“When you’re in an orchestra, you work together to create something very, very beautiful,” said Zak. “Thoughts and feelings that you have are very easily expressed with music.”
Zak took private cello lessons for more than five years. He has been a member of Mansfield Youth Strings and Newark-Granville Youth Strings. He now plays with the high school orchestra and the Knox County Symphony.
Both students plan to continue their musical involvement after graduation. Zak sees music as a lifelong calling. Lord is planning to study chemical engineering, but hopes to join the orchestra and serve as an accompanist at whatever college she decides to attend.
Following their All-State appearance, the teens will perform closer to home on Saturday. Lord will be a featured performer at the Knox County Symphony’s winter concert, taking place at 8 p.m. in Rosse Hall Auditorium at Kenyon College, where she will play an excerpt of Robert Schumann’s Piano Concerto in A Minor.
To see the entire Mount Vernon High School Orchestra in action, mark your calendars for its Feb. 13 concert at 7 p.m. at the high school. The performance is free and open to the public.