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When Ian Parker graduates from Summit High School this weekend, he plans to help continue one of the rich traditions Summit County excels at: keeping classical music alive by attracting more listeners. Both the National Repertory Orchestra and the Breckenridge Music Festival “played a huge part in my musical education,” Parker said. Attending their concerts, knowing some musicians there, and even performing with the Summit Community Orchestra has inspired Parker to become a better artist.
This fall, he’ll attend University of Denver to study music education. His goal: teaching and the transfer of knowledge, he said.
“If I can instill the same amount of passion and inspiration (I have), then it makes me feel like I’ve done my part to help people appreciate classical music … and I’ve done my part to keep it alive,” he said, talking about the importance classical music has played in the structure and composition of contemporary music.
Parker first learned to play the piano, then branched out to the viola, which he picked up in sixth grade; the clarinet, which his symphonic band leader told him to learn before the saxophone; and, ultimately, the sax, because of its big, broad sound.
Throughout his education within the Summit School District, he’s learned how to appreciate all kinds of pieces – even ones he doesn’t initially like.
“In order to really enjoy music, you have to like it,” he said, admitting the statement sounds obvious, but explaining that one of the essential things his classes have taught him is to listen to recordings of a song and pinpoint subtleties, which he then strives to bring out in his own performances to make music more accessible to audiences.
“I’ve also gained a greater overall appreciation of all kinds of music – from hip-hop to classical – through theory class because I know what goes into a piece, and even if it doesn’t appeal to me, I can still appreciate how it was made,” he said.
Summer camps also have furthered his love of music and his skills. He has participated in Summit County’s Scale the Summit since musicians from the Carpe Diem String Quartet started, and this summer, he’ll attend that and Colorado State University’s summer camp.
“It forces the best out of me because I have to step up my game to sound good against these musicians,” he said.
In addition to spreading his love of music to other students through teaching, he also hopes to perform because he enjoys creating “something that’s worthy to be listened to,” he said.
Ashley Longhill is moving on to Colorado State University to study performing arts because she’s found a sort of second home at CSU, due to its summer music camp. After college, she hopes to perform with the New York Philharmonic, or a similar quality orchestra. She’d also love to experience the NRO as a young musician, since she’s heard such good things about the summer program in Breckenridge.
With violin as her primary instrument, Longhill has played with the Summit County Youth Orchestra and the high school’s bands. She also plays percussion, trombone and viola and has performed in the school’s musicals and plays. Her favorite play was the most recent “It’s Great to Be Crazy,” because the audience sat on stage with her, and it was a “fun comedy” that takes place in the late 1950s and early 1960s. The intimate stage set-up gave her the experience of acting more like she was on film, with smaller gestures and expressions.
Overall, her education at Summit High has taught her commitment, “because there have been frustrating times,” she said, such as when a conductor changes pieces or peers don’t show up to rehearsals.
“You have to roll with the punches and keep going,” she said.
The thing she loves most about the performing arts is how it “allows me to show different emotions,” from being funny in play to being passionate in her musical expression. “It allows people to see different sides of me.”
Her training in Summit also has some very practical sides: Learning to play wind instruments in high elevation has taught her how to “breathe better, play stronger and have better tone quality,” she said.
And, though the performing arts is a tough field in which to carve out a solid career, “it’s something that’s always been in me,” she said. “I don’t see myself doing anything else. It’s just the thing I love to do most.
“It’s been an amazing journey so far, and I can’t wait to see where it takes me.”
Another asset Summit County’s community brings to students is the local theaters. Clarissa Jimenez has been working at the Lake Dillon Theatre Company for about a year. After taking a theater tech class at Summit High School, she decided she wanted to pursue the art. At Lake Dillon, she’s learned specific skills such as set building, lighting and scene painting, the latter of which is similar to faux painting, or creating two-dimensional walls and floors that look like three-dimensional wood, wallpaper, etc.
But directors Christopher Alleman and Josh Blanchard have imparted something even more important than skills: attitude. As the crew members at Lake Dillon work, they joke around, listen to music and generally have a good time.
“It’s just an accepting and fun and high-energy (environment),” she said about the Lake Dillon Theatre. “I’ve learned to have a positive attitude and work really hard (because) it’s worth it.”
Jimenez prefers to remain in the “shadows,” as it were, of theater by using her creativity to present a mood through colors and tone. As a result, she guides “the emotional curve of the show,” she said.
“I love to build but not necessarily be on stage,” she said, explaining why she’s attending Wagner College in New York to study theater technology. She chose the school because of its unique and well-rounded program.
“I want to experience as much as possible,” she said, “and see where the theater scene takes me – (possibly) on tour, to New York City, or back to Lake Dillon Theatre.”
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