Unique high school experience prepares grad for success
Bella Ward’s years as a violinist in the School of Music’s high school program have been just the beginning of her time at UNCSA. She crossed the Stevens Center stage at High School Commencement, but will return to campus this fall as an undergraduate student. She tells us how her experiences in the high school program have uniquely prepared her as a musician for her college career:
Tell us what you'll be doing after graduation.
After graduation I will be spending four weeks at the Green Mountain Chamber Music Festival during the summer and then coming back to UNCSA for my undergraduate education.
If you could say thank you to one person at UNCSA, who would it be? Why?
I would say thank you to my violin teacher, Kevin Lawrence. Studying with him for the past four years has helped me to realized my love for music. He has supported and challenged me, and I always left my lessons feeling inspired and energized. Mr. Lawrence is an amazing teacher because he sees the strength in every student and works hard to help each person uncover this strength in a way that they understand.
He has both an intellectual and artistic approach to teaching, and under his guidance I have felt that my emotional, physical and mental boundaries have broadened to allow me to be a more honest and engaged musician.
What’s your favorite performance you were a part of at UNCSA? Why?
Playing in the pit orchestra for the school’s production of “The Nutcracker” was one really memorable performance experience. Because we played so many shows and got to know the music very well, the orchestra members got into a groove where we weren’t so nervous to perform.
With each show, the feeling of comradery grew across the entire orchestra, until, on the closing night, we all came together to finish the season strong. There’s a tradition in the pit when during the final show, everyone gets to the last page of music, and we all turn our stand lights off one by one—until conductor, strings, winds, brass and percussion are all sitting in the dark and playing the music from the memory of our hearts.
In those last few seconds before the curtain closed, an overwhelming feeling of belonging overcame me, and I could see on the faces of my peers that they felt it, too. I had never felt so part of humankind, alive and vulnerable, simply loving and being happy.
What’s an opportunity you had at UNCSA that's different from other high schools?
I suppose it’s rather obvious, but the fact that this university has a high school program is an immense opportunity that very few places have. Coming in as a freshman, I was amazed that I had the chance to be stand partners with undergraduate and graduate students, and I learned so much just by sitting next to them in orchestra. I also had the opportunity to listen to students who were almost ready to jump into their professional careers perform every week in masterclasses.
As a high school student I was able to study with college professors and be immersed in a focused environment that a regular high school could not offer. I feel that my time here has given me a head start in the college experience and will allow me to take full advantage of my studies after high school.
Tell us something you wish someone had told you when you were a new student at UNCSA.
I wish someone had told me to participate in more unstructured and unassigned collaboration. As a violin player I am very familiar with playing in string quartets and in the orchestra, but I have had little opportunities to collaborate with other types of instruments in more intimate settings. This school is bursting with talented musicians to learn from, and it recently hit me that I don’t have to wait to be assigned into an ensemble in order to collaborate with them. I would say have more jam sessions and start music projects just for fun, with people you wouldn’t normally play with.
What's something valuable you learned at UNCSA?
At UNCSA I learned that success is as simple as hard work. With balancing AP classes, a rigorous arts schedule, social life and personal health away from the support of your family, it’s easy to be overwhelmed by everything. To keep up with it all I had to learn to manage my time and set priorities. The harder I worked, the easier things became because I began to see results in my life, which motivated me to continue working hard towards the things that matter.
At UNCSA I learned that success is as simple as hard work.
Do you have a favorite inspirational quote? Why is it special?
It is actually the title of a song by an Icelandic musician named Jónsi, and it just makes sense to me. It is not profound or flowery, but gives such a strong message in two simple words. Throughout high school these words inspired me to broaden my perspective and challenge myself with new experiences on a daily basis. They helped me realize that a happy life is simply one of growth through activity and exploration.