INDIANAPOLIS — She sat at center stage, poised and ready, flute in hand.
The clarinets and drums behind her were no distraction, nor were the bows of violins and cellos dancing in the air to the right and left before her. They served as countdown, rather, to her moment to join the sound.
At the precise second, Emily Burden lifted the flute to her lips and joined the musicians around her, bringing to life the notes written moons ago by Igor Stravinsky.
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The Hilbert Circle Theatre in Indianapolis is often filled with music, but not in quite the same way as it is once a year at the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra’s Side-by-Side concert.
The event is a chance for high school-aged musicians to perform alongside ISO professionals. This year’s concert, the 24th of its kind, took place Wednesday with 55 students from across Indiana taking the stage.
Burden, a senior at New Palestine High School, and trumpeter Ben Maynard, a senior at Greenfield-Central High School, were among those participating.
Each has been studying music for most of their lives. Their hard work paid off because not just anyone is allowed on stage at Side-by-Side, said Jessica Di Santo, ISO’s director of communications. Hundreds audition each year, and each section is narrowed down over several months until only the best remain.
It’s a unique opportunity, Di Santo said, the memory of which will surely last a lifetime. Burden said she recognizes the opportunity and would encourage any young musician to seek out chances to learn from those who are more experienced.
“I’ve been trying to take advantage of every opportunity that I can to develop my musicianship and repertoire,” she said. “It’s a great way to build experience.”
Maynard and Burden both said they were turned on to music through school. Maynard said he was in fifth grade when a high school band director and a group of older students came to his middle school to talk with kids about joining band.
Someone told him that he would like playing the trumpet, Maynard said, and, because it was one of the only instruments presented that day that he recognized, he agreed.
“Everything seems to be working out,” he said with a laugh, explaining that he hasn’t put the instrument down much since that day seven years ago.
Maynard spends roughly 30 hours a week honing his skill, including time in band class at school, at home with a private instructor and at Greenfield-Central Junior High School helping with the seventh- and eighth-grade band classes.
His private instructor, Cliff Kimmerling, said he has been working with Maynard for three years and is impressed by the teen’s diligence.
“Ben has worked harder than any student I’ve ever had,” Kimmerling said. “He is a lot further along than the typical high school student.
“At this point, he’s basically teaching himself, and, as his teacher, that’s my ultimate goal. Now, I’m more of a coach than anything else.”
Maynard plans to study music in college. He’s auditioning at several schools and trying to decide whether to study performance or teaching.
Burden first picked up a flute as a third-grader after her older sister abandoned the instrument. Now she plays with several young orchestras and bands. She hopes to study performance at a university and ultimately play in a professional orchestra like the ISO.
Shawn Humphries, Burden’s band director at New Palestine, called her an “incredible kid” with an “unbelievable work ethic.”
In the 10 years Humphries has been working at New Palestine, only three students have been selected to take part in the Side-by-Side concert.
He was excited for Burden when she received the news. He knows her resume and the determination behind it will make a difference in her future.
“I’ve told her this many times before, but those things combined create a ‘top 1 percent’ situation for her and makes her one of the top flute players in the state,” he said.
In selecting musicians to participate in Side-by-Side, Di Santo said, the organization takes into account recommendations from the students’ teachers while surveying their overall talent.
Those who are selected spend two months learning four pieces of classical music and practice with the full orchestra one day prior to the concert.
While Side-by-Side gives students a powerful line to add to their resumes, concerts such as these are also a way to meet other young musicians, Maynard said.
“(Because of music), I have been able to meet lots of really good people from all over the state,” he said. “I’ve become friends with them and keep in touch with them … because we share so many of the same interests.”
Name: Ben Maynard
Attends: Greenfield-Central High School
Current instructors: Cliff Kimmerling, private instructor; Chris Wing, Greenfield-Central High School band director
Plans: To attend college to study music performance or music education
Name: Emily Burden
Attends: New Palestine High School
Current instructors: Anne Reynolds, private instructor; Shawn Humphries, New Palestine High School band director
Plans: To attend college to study music performance and join a professional symphony orchestra
“I’ve been trying to take advantage of every opportunity that I can to develop my musicianship and repertoire.”
Emily Burden, on why she auditioned for the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra’s Side-by-Side program