More than students: high schoolers find their forte in music

Senior Drew Waterman jams out on his electric guitar.
(Photo by Elliot Goldman)

“Do you have a passion for something in life?”

Many teenagers struggle to answer that question, remaining more focused on academics, friends and family rather than pursuing an activity they genuinely love. However, this is not the case for many musicians at the high school who have taken their passion for music beyond school hours and participate in a multitude of groups and organizations throughout Columbus.

Seniors Miller MacDonald and Cecilia Martin as well as junior Nicole Lin play for the Columbus Symphony Youth Orchestra, an audition-only musical group that performs in downtown Columbus.

MacDonald is the principal cellist as well as the president for the high school’s Sinfonia Orchestra. He said that he typically practices at least 20 hours a week.

“I really like playing music with others,” MacDonald said. “I ended up having the motivation because of how much I enjoy it.”

Throughout his time as a dedicated musician, MacDonald said he has had numerous unique opportunities and learned about people’s individual experiences with music.

“I’ve met musicians from all over Columbus, many that live in much bigger school districts and have completely different stories and experiences,” he explained.

Both MacDonald and Lin expressed their fondness for master classes, which are classes focused on advanced musical concepts taught by performing artists or renowned teachers.

“Master classes are an incredible opportunity to learn and get better at your instrument,” Lin said.

Lin began playing the violin and piano when she was 4. While playing these instruments was something she was initially forced to do, she said she now considers the instruments to be a passion of hers.

“My mom made me start taking lessons when I was younger, and I wasn’t interested in it at all,” she said. “The older that I got, the more I understood the music and could truly enjoy playing it.”

Playing alongside Lin, Martin is a violinist with aspirations to audition for and attend one of the country’s top music conservatories, such as The Juilliard School and Manhattan School of Music.

“I’ve been a serious player since I was 7,” she said. “Every time I listen to an amazing musician, all I want to do is play at that level.”

Martin is the concertmaster for the CSYO, and she attended music camps at the Meadowmount School of Music in New York and Bowdoin International School of Music.

“At these camps, I met other players that were going to play music in college at a high level,” she said. “When I saw that they were able to do it, I wanted to do the same.”

The high school’s musical talent goes beyond just classical. Senior Liam Avelluto is the first chair tenor saxophone for the Columbus Youth Jazz Orchestra, he explained.

“I developed a passion for music in the sixth grade when I first picked up the alto saxophone,” he said.

Avelluto plays regularly in jam sessions at Park Street Tavern and the Valleydale Ballroom. He is also a member of the top ensemble for the Jazz Arts Group, a group that performs all over Columbus, he added.

“I’ve gotten to play with and under fantastic musicians and conductors with the CYJO and the Jazz Arts Group,” Avelluto added.

Senior Drew Waterman said he began playing the guitar amidst COVID-19 as a pastime, but it eventually developed into something much greater.

“I started listening to older music that was more oriented around the guitar than modern day rap is and wondered if I could recreate some of it,” he said.

Waterman said he bought his first guitar and amplifier for $120 from a pawn shop and began learning songs from YouTube.

“Some of my favorite pieces to play are Led Zeppelin and Red Hot Chili Peppers songs,” he explained. “I’ve also gotten into playing songs of blues artists, like Eric Clapton.”

Waterman said he is a casual player and only posts his music occasionally on Instagram and Snapchat. However, he added that he has high hopes of eventually reaching stardom.

“I haven’t been able to secure a record deal just yet, but in time I’ll be as big as Jimi Hendrix,” he said.