Swampscott High Violinist to Take The Stage
Sophomore Anastasia Skeadas will join the North Shore Philharmonic Orchestra Sunday at Swampscott High as part of her directed study with the orchestra.
When Anastasia Skeadas took her seat among the second violins at her first rehearsal with the North Shore Philharmonic Orchestra, the Swampscott High sophomore quickly noticed the talent of the adult musicians around her.
“The music sounded so good, right away, and we played such long sections right through,” she recalled. “I knew I really had to practice a lot!”
Anastasia is the first Swampscott High musician to embark on a directed study through the cooperative effort between school and the North Shore Philharmonic Orchestra, and this Sunday she’ll play her first concert with her new colleagues when the NSPO begins its 64th season with a 3 p.m. concert at Swampscott High School.
While the 15-year-old violinist, who started her study when she was 6 years old, has played with New England Conservatory String Training Orchestra, the Northeast Massachusetts Youth Orchestras, and participated in the Apple Hill Chamber Camp in Nelson, New Hampshire, Sunday’s concert will be the first time that the musicians around her are seasoned performers.
“It’s exciting for me to play with experienced players," she said. "They’re so good at it, but it makes me feel better about myself and gives me confidence as a musician that I can play at this level.”
For Anastasia and those involved with her work, the directed study is a path of abundant benefit. North Shore Philharmonic Music Director Robert Lehmann lauded Anastasia for her ambition while noting the value of the Philharmonic Orchestra’s collaboration with the Swampscott school department.
“In order to qualify for an independent study, Anastasia was required to outline the expected outcomes as well as our expectations for her participation with our group,” Lehmann remarked. “She had to audition for membership and agree to practice routinely in order to learn and execute her orchestral parts responsibly. She also had to commit to all the required rehearsals and write an essay on one of the works we will be performing.”
Dr. Lehmann, the director of string studies and orchestra activities at the University of Southern Maine, especially values the relation between Orchestra and student.
“At a time when string programs in our schools are dwindling and opportunities for young string players to experience an orchestral ensemble in their schools have become virtually non-existent, the North Shore Philharmonic Orchestra's mission statement is more important than ever,” he noted.
The Orchestra, formed in 1947 by a group of young classical musicians from the North Shore area, has always prided itself as a showcase for talented amateur musicians and aspiring soloists. The interaction with Swampscott High comports with the Orchestra’s long tradition.
Swampscott High Principal Layne Millington sees the directed study as an important adjunct to the regular classroom curriculum. With budgetary limitations and fundamental time constraints, even an energetic music program like Swampscott High’s has its limitations.
“Directed Study allows a student to expand their experience beyond the classroom,” Millington remarked. “It’s an opportunity to step into a much bigger league than what the high school can offer.”
Directed study is not just a musical venture.
“We’ve had students pursue apprenticeships in culinary arts, art design, or take college classes for dual-enrollment credit," the principal said.
In this instance, though, the chance to practice with experienced musicians, and then perform in public, is particularly rewarding. “This is an opportunity to interact with musicians who have continued their passion beyond their school years," he said, "and so this provides students with the chance to experience what they can become.”
Anastasia’s directed study is demanding.
In addition to attending seven three-hour rehearsals on Sunday evenings leading up to the concert, she must complete an academic paper that will be assessed by Dr. Lehmann and NSPO violinist Irene Leamon, a Swampscott resident who is acting as liaison between the Orchestra and the school.
Anastasia has chosen the genius composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart as the subject of her term paper.
“We’re playing Mozart’s ‘Magic Flue’ Overture and the Clarinet concerto Sunday, so studying the composer while playing his music seemed like a good fit for my paper,” she said with a smile.
Thus far, Anastasia has enjoyed the challenge.
“I like Robert Lehmann, the way he conducts," she said. "He has treated me just as another musician in the Orchestra, no special treatment. I’m expected to be prepared and to play.”
She also has felt welcome by her older associates.
“They’ve all been really nice to me, coming up to me and making me feel like part of the group,” she said.
Her endeavor with the North Shore Philharmonic Orchestra is packed into a robust schedule of school, music, dance, piano, and even junior varsity volleyball.
A wall calendar in the kitchen of her home is filled with the scribble of times, locations, and assignments that Anastasia’s mother, Kim, diligently maintains.
“Oh, we have a great time keeping track of it all,” Kim Skeadas quipped.
After Sunday’s concert, Anastasia will play with the NSPO Dec. 4, in the Orchestra’s Christmas concert at St. Anthony’s Church in Revere.
She is uncertain whether she will continue with the NSPO for the second half of the school year; it will depend on her success in her upcoming tryouts in the Senior Districts Competition of the Northeast Massachusetts Youth Orchestras.
“This is an Orchestra formed from the top musicians from all of the NMYOs, selected by audition, and I just don’t think I’d have the time to be involved in both,” she said.
Wherever she’s playing her violin, though, Anastasia is looking forward to it. So are her parents and friend, and her grandmother Priscilla will travel up from her home in Pembroke to see the concert.
Is Anastasia nervous?
“No, not really,” she said with a laugh. “I don’t get stage fright.”
Not surprising, since she started her artistic career at the tender age of 3 when she commenced her first love, dance.
Dance, in fact, is her true passion.
“I’d like to pursue study in the arts after high school, and right now I think it would be dance over music,” she said, reflecting on her study in pointe, ballet, lyrical, and jazz dance.
But that’s still off in the future. She enjoys her violin discipline with her teachers Ellen Levine of Swampscott and Mieko van Haeren at the New England Conservatory, and recently Anastasia started playing piano.
So she has several paths from which to choose.
The next stop on Anastasia’s artistic journey, though, comes this Sunday at 3 p.m. on the stage in the auditorium at her high school.
Her peers Sunday will be adult musicians, most of whom enjoy careers in areas other than music but who have nurtured their love of music by their membership in organizations such as the North Shore Philharmonic.
She’ll be a trailblazer, of sorts, as the first Swampscott High music student to take advantage of the school’s relation with the NSPO.
It’s one of those “win-win” situations for the school, the orchestra, the student, and anyone who appreciates music and the precious connection between a civic organization and the community in which it plays.
The North Shore Philharmonic Orchestra In Concert Sunday, November 13, 2011
3 p.m. at Swampscott High SchoolAuditorium
- Mozart: Overture to the Magic Flute
- Mozart: Clarinet Concerto with soloist Thomas Parchman
- Brahms: Serenade No. 1
Tickets at the Door $20, $15 seniors and students, Children 12 and under free. Also available at www.nspo.org