Lexington High School sends seven students to an all-state orchestra
LEXINGTON — The Lexington High School Orchestra will need to replace some serious talent next year.
The village recently produced seven performers to perform with the Ohio Music Education All-State Orchestra in the Grand Ballroom of the Huntington Convention Center in Cleveland.
Six of the seven are elderly.
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Lexington had the second-largest contingent in the entire 110-member set, behind only William Mason, Ohio’s largest high school.
“It’s very intense,” said high school bandleader Stephen Domka, “and you’re up against the big competition in Cincinnati, Columbus and Cleveland.”
Domka pointed out that students in big cities often have access to professional orchestras and university professors.
Lexington’s seven selections were a school record.
“It’s a lot of consistent, hard work,” Domka said. “A lot of them have been playing since fourth or fifth grade.”
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Six of the seven state qualifiers were seniors
The state qualifiers were Tommy Secrist, Grace Sarbach, Katie Sheridan, Maggie Sheridan, Sam Prinz, Rachel Mutti and Ava Newdome. Only Newdome is junior.
Secrist has been playing the violin since the age of 11. Her father, Lexington Superintendent Jeremy Secrist, is friends with Domka and suggested that she try the violin.
“I just loved it,” Tommy said.
Secrist also plays No. 1 singles for the mighty Lexington tennis team. He plans to attend Capital University and major in music technology.
Secrist plans to play with the college orchestra, as well as the tennis team.
Sarbach plays the double bass.
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“Mr. Domka showed me the big instrument and I decided I wanted to play it,” she said. “I wear it like a backpack.”
Sarbach said she was “ecstatic” to be part of the all-state orchestra, guaranteeing her a place on the Lexington Wall of Fame.
She also plays bass guitar in the school’s legendary Band of Gold.
“I like electric better,” said Sarbach, who plans to major in education at Bowling Green State.
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The fraternal twins both qualify for a concert
Katie and Maggie Sheridan are fraternal twins. Both play the violin.
Katie said she chose the instrument because she liked the way it sounded. She had been an alternate for the all-state orchestra during her freshman and sophomore years.
Last year’s event was canceled by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It was super exciting,” Katie said of her selection.
She said playing with all the high caliber musicians was a bit daunting.
“It seemed like everyone in front of me knew what they were doing, and I didn’t,” Katie said.
Maggie said she followed her sister’s example by taking up the violin as well.
“I was considering participating in an orchestra,” she said. “Katie said she was interested in the violin. I thought maybe I should check that out too.”
As a sophomore, Maggie was a substitute for the all-state orchestra. She knew it was “all or nothing” for her senior year.
In eighth grade, Maggie qualified for the Scripps National Spelling Bee, which was televised by ESPN.
Maggie plans to study pre-med in college. She and Katie, who are going to study chemical engineering, don’t know where they want to go. Katie said they would probably go to different colleges, “so we can start over.”
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Prinz practices 5-10 hours per week
Sam Prinz plays the viola, which has a deeper sound than the violin. He has been playing the instrument for eight years and tried his entire high school career to qualify for the state orchestra.
“It was really neat, how seriously everyone takes their job,” Prinz said of her peers at the Cleveland concert.
He added that he practices about five to ten hours a week.
“I have more time this semester,” Prinz said, noting that he’s completed all the graduation requirements, so he’s taking fewer classes.
Mutti is another violinist. She had never auditioned for the All States Orchestra before.
“I was really surprised that I succeeded,” Mutti said.
She also plays in the Mansfield Symphony Youth Orchestra, while playing the violin in her church.
“I was interested in playing an instrument,” Mutti said. “I didn’t know too much about the other instruments, so I opted for the violin.”
She plans to study marine biology at a college yet to be determined.
Newdome will be the orchestra’s only returning local member from any state. She said she was surprised she qualified.
“Before the audition, I couldn’t go to my classes for three weeks (due to other commitments),” Newdome said. “I didn’t think I would make it this year.”
To play with other talented musicians, Newdome admitted that “it was really intimidating”.
The Lexington qualifiers were lucky to already be staying in a hotel a few days before the show, which happened in the aftermath of winter storm Landoll.
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Domka admires the super seven. He says when he evaluates musicians, he looks for talent, work ethic and type of person.
“It’s very rare for the three to line up,” Domka said. “With a number of them, they line up.”
Domka, who has worked in Lexington since 2009, said playing an instrument isn’t cheap, adding some cost between $5,000 and $6,000. He gives several of his students private lessons.
“You can be a little more relaxed. I’m getting to know the kids better,” he said. “In a group setting, it’s more about business.”
With all those seniors ready to move on, Domka expressed concern about the future of the high school orchestra.
“Our students in grades five through eight have really taken a hit because of the pandemic,” he said of the turnout. “It’s going to be interesting in the next two, three, four years.”
Of this group, Domka noted that many of them are involved in studies and athletics, which he supports.
“I learned a long time ago that you can’t be exclusive with kids,” he said. “Children learn to multitask.”