Shelby Johnson-Musical Prodigy

Shelby Johnson-Musical Prodigy

Over the winter break, sophomore student Shelby Johnson auditioned for the Metropolitan Youth Symphony, (MYS) division 1 ensemble, and got in. This is the highest level at MYS and the only ensemble in the program that is a full symphony orchestra, comprised of the most advanced musicians performing standard repertoire as well as music from contemporary composers. Shelby has been playing the flute for around five years now since 6th grade and really enjoys playing. I interviewed her about her experience with achieving this amazing accomplishment.

Q: When did you first get into playing the flute and what made you want to start?

A: I first started playing the flute when I was in sixth grade at ACP Oakland. All sixth graders had to choose a musical elective, and I choose to do band. I had never played the flute before or even held one, but I thought that the flute was a beautiful instrument and would be fun to learn how to play. I got better very quickly and loved playing!

Q: How does it feel to get into the highest level at MYS and did you ever think that you would get this far?

A: It feels amazing to be at the highest level at MYS. I have never performed in a full ensemble with both strings and winds before, so I am very excited about this new opportunity. I was not sure if I would get into division because I didn’t know if I would be good enough to get into the highest level of MYS. I practiced every day and took a private lesson. For my audition, I had to memorize all the scales to prepare a solo and be prepared to do a reading. I am very happy to be in the group that I am in, and I can’t wait to learn more with MYS. It’s also great to be surrounded by talented musicians; I learn from them and they push me to be better.

Q: What makes you keep trying and pursuing this instrument even when things get tough?

A: Getting challenging pieces of music is very exciting but can be frustrating to play in the beginning. Sometimes my fingers don’t move fast enough, or I run out of air, or I can’t hit a high note . However, I take a minute to think about the music and how I can improve with the piece. I do things like slowing down the tempo or playing variations of the notes so that I can get the piece to sound precise before I speed it up . I practice every evening, and we’ll play a piece over and over until I’m happy with how it sounds. Even when things get tough, I keep trying because I know that the hard piece of music that I am working on will improve my skills as a musician. When I finally can play the piece at tempo with all of the right notes, it is very rewarding.

Q: What are some of your other hobbies and things you enjoy doing in your free time?

A: Besides playing my flute, I love reading and doing jigsaw puzzles. I also enjoy spending time with my family and my four cats. My sister also plays a musical instrument, the trombone, and we enjoy playing duets together. She also got into MYS, so it will be fun to play in an ensemble together. I enjoy traveling, and some of my favorite places are Disneyland, Flagstaff, Hawaii, and Las Vegas . I am also a huge fan of Marvel movies, and I am in the Marvel Club at ACP . I enjoyed dancing and yoga and love speaking Spanish.

Q: What is your main motivation and what are your goals for the future?

A: My main motivation for my flute is to improve my skills and become a better musician. I have a private instructor who helps, and I have definitely learned a lot from her. Some of my goals for the future include doing the best that I can with my MYS music. There are some parts of the music that are very challenging, and I will spend a lot of time practicing, making them sound the best that they can. I will be auditioning for regionals in a few weeks, so I want to improve on my audition music for that as well. I have also been playing the piccolo for almost a year, and I want to work on playing the higher notes on my piccolo and practicing for solos in upcoming concerts.

Q: Are you going to pursue a career that has to do with playing the flute or is playing just a hobbie that you enjoy doing right now?

A: I am not sure if I will pursue a career in music, but playing my flute is definitely not just a hobby. I am definitely interested in a career in medicine, but I haven’t ruled out anything involving my flute. Playing the flute is something that I am very passionate about, and music with the flute has always been an important part of my life . Even if I don’t have a career in music, I will continue with band for the rest of high school and would like to play in the college band.

Great Job, Shelby! Getting into the highest level at the MYS program is such an awesome accomplishment, and you should be so proud of yourself. No matter what you keep doing all the Knights here at ACP commend you for your great achievement. Playing an instrument is one of the hardest things to learn and to keep up with, and your dedications shows others that when you put your mind to it, you can achieve your dreams. You are one of ACP’s finest students, and we wish you the best as you continue to grow your craft.