Young Artists ready for the stage

Clinton High School senior William Hicks (left) and sophomore Grace Rowland are looking forward to their Feb. 24 concert solos accompanied by the Clinton Symphony Orchestra. Normally one student is chosen for the performance; this year, according to CSO Executive Director Robert Whipple, the association made an exception for two students they thought were ready. Jacqueline Covey/Clinton Herald

CLINTON — The Clinton Symphony Orchestra this year made an exception to its one-chair invitation to perform as a Clinton Symphony Orchestra Young Artist.

Instead, two Clinton High School students have been accepted to perform solos with the orchestra at its Feb. 24 concert. Grace Rowland, a sophomore, and William Hicks, a senior, will perform their solos at the concert in Morrison, Illinois as Clinton Symphony Orchestra Young Artists.

"The judges felt that both of these students were ready to perform... They stretched it a bit and included both of them," said Robert Whipple, executive director of the Clinton Symphony Orchestra Association.

Of its 64 years, Whipple has been with the symphony for almost 50; student outreach and the young, solo auditions have always played a big part in the organization. The seats are open to high school students only, and entrants must reside in Clinton or Jackson counties in Iowa, or Whiteside or Carroll counties in Illinois.

"We just want to give them the audition experience," Whipple said, adding that many students will face more auditions after high school. "And for the winners, it's nice to be able to perform with the orchestra."

In front of a panel of judges, some music teachers or band directors in the area, the students played their chosen piece. All went home with written comments.

Hicks, bassoon in hand, and Rowland on the flute, played pieces that accompany the theme of the late February concert, "Genuine Inspiration." The symphony is inspired by Mozart, as it will play one of the last pieces written before he prematurely died, as well as Beethoven's "Symphony No. 6."

Hicks's parents, Walter and Christina Hicks, both in musical education and members in a band, have passed on their dedication to music to their son. Hicks plays bass guitar and bass drum in addition to the bassoon.

Hicks is a two-time attendee to Iowa All-State Band for bassoon, played in an honors ensemble, soloed in performances and played in honor band for the University of Iowa and Augustana.

"A musician is the top thing that I am," he said.

Rowland, on the younger side of students chosen over six decades, was inspired at last year's concert with young artists and wanted to be one of them. Her private flute teacher received the same honor as a sophomore in high school; she thought it would be "cool" if she achieved the same.

"When I got the letter, I started crying," she said. "I am excited to share what I have done with this piece because it took a lot of work."

Rowland was homeschooled until her freshman year of high school – when she found and fell in love with band. She first started learning the flute in fifth grade, but quickly dropped it. A little more than a year ago, she picked the wind instrument back up, going forward to be honored as one of two Young Artists in Clinton. She also plays the saxophone and the piano.

Whipple said that generally, the upperclassmen have the advantage to be selected for the honor.

"I just feel really happy that I was able to get this achievement, being young, and I am excited to perform," she said.

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