Three students from West Hartford’s Hall High School have earned positions with the NAfME All-National Honors Ensembles.
By Ronni Newton
The high quality of the West Hartford Public Schools music programs is far from a secret, and students regularly receive high-level recognition for their abilities, but this year’s level of achievement by three Hall High School students is extraordinary.
Through a rigorous and lengthy audition process, the National Association for Music Education (NAfME) annually selects several hundred talented high school students from throughout the country for its All-National Honor Ensembles.
Three of the 542 students selected to the 2020 All-National Honors Ensembles are from West Hartford’s Hall High School. Two Hall students, Amelia Caruk and Amruth Niranjan, were named to the All-National Concert Band, and they are among just four from Connecticut who were selected to participate.
Isabelle Anis is one of only two Connecticut students selected for the All National Symphony Orchestra this year.
“Selected to perform in the 2020 All-National Honor Ensembles are 542 of the most musically talented high school students in the United States. With assistance from their music teachers and directors, these exceptional students have prepared challenging music that they will perform under the leadership of prominent conductors in this annual event,” reads the program for this year’s event, which has been conducted virtually.
“I’ve been playing violin since I was 4. It’s a large part of my life,” said Anis, a junior at Hall.
Anis is a participant in West Hartford Public Schools’ I Giovani Solisti honors chamber orchestra program, and has also taken part in music programs in Germany. In order to earn her spot in the All-National Symphony Orchestra, she first had to earn regional and then All-State recognition.
Caruk, a junior at Hall, started playing the French horn in fourth grade, when West Hartford’s elementary school students are invited to participate in the instrumental music program. It was an instrument she was already familiar with.
“My dad plays the French horn,” she said, and it was really the only option her music teacher at Bugbee Elementary School let her consider. “I loved it from the time I was a little kid. I loved the sound, but being stubborn I didn’t tell [my dad].”
Eventually, by about eighth grade, she admitted to her father – who plays professionally and also works as a lab technician – how much she loved the French horn.
Niranjan, now a senior, started playing trombone as a fourth-grader at Norfeldt Elementary School.
“I just thought it was a cool mix between playing low and sounding like a trumpet,” he said of how he chose the instrument.
While Niranjan is part of the All-National Concert Band, his favorite genre is jazz, and he’s participating in Hall’s Pops ‘n Jazz, which will be recorded for YouTube this year rather than held as live performances.
Due to COVID-19, the entire NAfME program has gone virtual – the audition portion as well as the celebration. Rather than the members of the 2020 ensembles being able to gather together for a March 2021 in-person performance, they recorded their parts individually and an online recording has been released.
While the NAfME program includes performances by the musicians, but with comprehensive educational opportunities it’s more than just a showcase.
Caruk said despite being virtual, the experience of being in the All-National Concert Band has been extremely rewarding, and she really enjoyed the master classes and workshops. This year’s program was supposed to be held in Palm Springs, and she’s hoping for an in-person opportunity next year when the program will be held in San Diego.
All three students plan to continue their musical studies in the future.
As a junior, Anis hasn’t picked any colleges yet but said she plans to double major in chemistry and music.
“I definitely want to see how far I can go with music,” said Caruk. She plans to apply to music schools next year, and hopes to make it her career.
Niranjan said he plans to study math and physics in college, but is definitely interested in keeping music a part of his life.
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