MOUNT VERNON — Cellist Willa Kerkhoff, a sophomore at Mount Vernon High School, is proud to have been selected by the Ohio Music Educators Association to perform on Friday with the 2011 All-State Orchestra.
“It’s amazingly exciting,” she said. “It’s such an honor to be able to play with other musicians who are as dedicated to their instruments as I am. A lot of my friends from other orchestras I have been in are going to be there, so it’s really exciting to get to see them in such a prestigious environment.”
Tony Springer, MVHS orchestra conductor, is proud of Willa, too.
“The competition is pretty intense,” he said, “and it’s great to see a student work really hard and get this high level of achievement. It says a lot about how she works, and her dedication to playing in an orchestra and to her instrument.”
One reason for that dedication is that Willa likes the rich, deep sound of the cello. “Also,” she said, “because we have such long strings, we have a really big range. You can play high melody parts or you can play the bass line. It’s a really versatile sound.”
That versatility will be evident as Robert McCahin conducts the All-State Orchestra in “The Star-Spangled Banner,” Rimsky-Korsakov’s “Capriccio Espognol,” music from Copland’s “Our Town” and the “Sinfanische Metamorphose” by Hindemith.
“The hardest one is going to be the Hindemith piece,” Willa said. “It has tons of eighth notes and weird notes. It’s nuts. ... We are only going to have two days of rehearsals [in Cincinnati} before the concert, but we have had the music for a month and a half.”
Willa practices for about an hour, or more, a night.
“If you want to do well on a string instrument,” she said, “it takes an enormous commitment. You really do have to put a lot into your instrument. It’s not just about being talented. You have to love it because when you play, people can hear if you like it or not.”
The daughter of Jill and Andrew Kerkhoff, Willa is also an accomplished young scientist. Besides competing in local and regional competitions, she went to the International Science Fair in 2010.
“Music and science are two very different parts of me,” she said. “Music for me is a lot more expressive, creative and personal. All my science stuff stems from my interest in the outside world. It’s almost a more analytical look at the world around me than music, which is much more ‘what am feeling?’ and ‘what am I doing?’”