Steil has so far really enjoyed Con Amici. “Everyone is super nice, everyone just wants to have fun,” Steil said about all the other players.

Photo by Aubrey Kelley

Ninth grade talent, Alex Steil, introduced to Con Amici

December 22, 2017

The holidays are cram time for the members of the music department as they prepare for a horde of winter concerts and talent shows. Among the mix this year is freshman Alex Steil, the first ever ninth grader to feature their talent in the Con Amici orchestra.

Along with a handful of other eighth graders, Steil auditioned last spring for the Con Amici chamber orchestra. This is the first year the selective group has extended participation to freshman as they transitioned from the junior high to the high school. This orchestra is unique because it is student directed, therefore it demands excellence from each of its members and calls for group rehearsals twice a week.

I know a lot of other teachers would say homework before practice, but practicing is homework for me, and it’s homework that I really like to do.”

— Alex Steil

While it is a constant struggle for high school students to juggle their personal interests with school, work and other activities, Steil has no problem prioritizing orchestra into the mix. It is of such importance to him that he commits to practicing an hour to an hour and a half each day.

“I know a lot of other teachers would say homework before practice, but practicing is homework for me, and it’s homework that I really like to do,” he explained.

Steil first began his musical career in fifth grade with the cello as his instrument of choice. It was after this first year of learning how to hold a bow and play scales that he became hooked.

“Right around the middle of sixth grade something just clicked. It became a lot of fun and it still is today,” Steil said.

With the desire to further express his musical passion and talent, Steil auditioned for Con Amici, a process that proved to be more mentally challenging for him than the scales and excerpt he has to play.

“I was really nervous because I’d never done any audition before,” he said. “I just thought to myself ‘why not?’ because the worst thing they could say is that you didn’t get in.”

In the end, Steil’s efforts paid off as he is now playing his cello as a member of the selective orchestra in addition to his role in the Symphonic Orchestra. While many similarities are shared between the two groups, the vibrant atmosphere of Con Amici stood out to him the most.

“I prefer chamber because it is more energetic from what I see,” Steil said. “People are moving all the time, they never stay put. It’s really fun to play with a different caliber of students.”

This ability to convey emotion and a sense of self is what Director of Orchestras Zach Sawyer calls musicality, one of three major attributes he looks for in the audition process. Technicality and the ability to communicate through music are also equally important to the functioning of the student lead group.

“I try to let the musical souls of students guide the process,” Sawyer explained. “It’s easier to do that in a smaller group of spectacular students like Con Amici.”

Steil is no exception to this excellency. By getting his eyes off the music page and onto the conductor or others in the orchestra, he demonstrates his skill in communication during rehearsal.

Sawyer added, “He’s always looking up; it’s almost scary.”

Yet this big role comes with some pressures for the freshman of the group as it requires greater maturity and focus.

“For me, because I’m the youngest kid, it’s hard. You’re the youngest so you can’t do a lot of screwing up,” Steil said.

However, hard work and focus on the task at hand pays off for the students during Steil’s favorite time of year: the concerts.

Steil compared the process of concert preparation to a unit in school. He explained, “You’re working on this big thing and the concert is like your test, but it’s the best test.”

For Senior Ben Shantz, who is in the group for the second time as a bassist, the value of Con Amici is in the relationships made among its members. His description is very fitting of the literal Italian translation of Con Amici which is “with friends”.

“The idea behind Con Amici is that we’re supposed to be a family… that way we operate as a good orchestra,” Shantz said. “I think the whole intermixing of grades makes it more of an accepting thing.”

The transition of ninth graders into the music programs at the high school has sparked an excitement in Sawyer as well. He said that he is already enjoying his first year of working with Steil.

“As a music teacher it’s really fun to watch students to grow and develop over their time here,” Sawyer explained. “I think [Steil] is just a great student, a great person, and a fabulous musician. I’m really excited that he’s going to be here for four years.”

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6 Responses to “Ninth grade talent, Alex Steil, introduced to Con Amici”

  1. Jack Seipel on January 16th, 2018 4:57 pm

    This article was very interesting and it flowed very well from quote to quote. The quotes gave more emotion into the article and displayed the talents of Alex’s. The introduction was very well thought out and made me want to read the entire article


  2. Hannah Boardman on January 16th, 2018 5:35 pm

    This is a great article. I love hearing about Freshman, and the questions that were asked were well posed. I also learned a lot about Con Amici and what that Orchestra is about. Great job! I also liked learning about how he structured his mind while practicing.


  3. Linnea Phillips on January 16th, 2018 7:04 pm

    Great article getting to know a talented underclassmen. Good organization and use of interesting quotes to keep readers attention and wanting more. The interactive thinglink at the bottom really adds a cool interactive aspect to this story that helps readers learn more about the instrument being used. Great pictures used, fun article all together!


  4. Hailey Willius on January 16th, 2018 8:57 pm

    This article’s largest triumph by far is it’s brilliantly crafted fact paragraphs. From the word choice to each transition sentence, Mikayla obviously took a huge amount of time to craft this article. Both secondary sources fit into the article without taking away from the main focus Alex Steil. The only thing holding this article back was trying for a few more in depth quotes. Overall outstanding article!


  5. Noah Pasiuk on January 16th, 2018 9:06 pm

    Really well written article, truly like how you entertained the fact that he is an underclassman. We have so many students at the school that there are so many hidden talents among the population. Glad some of the younger students are getting the spotlight. Well done.


  6. Malaina Fragnito on January 17th, 2018 10:16 am

    I think it’s cool there was a freshman’s talent that was able to get featured. Sometimes the upper class men forget about the younger students but they can have a lot of potential and a lot to offer.


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