Local teen chosen for symphony mentor program

NEW PALESTINE — Wherever he goes, his oboe is usually within reach; it’s tucked away in a protective case unless he’s playing, which seems more often than not.

Cameron Smith knows how important the instrument is. It’s not only an extension of who he is; it encompasses what he hopes to one day become — a professional musician.

Smith, 18, a senior at New Palestine High School, has been playing the instrument since he was a youngster, and now the days and nights he’s dedicated to practice are paying off. Smith has been selected to take part in the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra’s Side-by-Side program, a chance for budding musicians to play alongside professional musicians.

“It’s just a reflection of everything you’ve done up to now,” Smith said. “I’m especially excited to play with their oboist — she’s amazing.”

Smith is one of about 1,000 Indiana students who’ve been chosen to share the stage with their professional counterparts at Hilbert Circle Theatre since the program began in 1991.

The Side-by-Side program begins with an orientation and rehearsal Wednesday. Smith and the other students will rehearse with the orchestra two times in January, four times in February and three times in March, culminating with a concert at 7 p.m. March 15.

Students auditioned for the honor and were selected based on their talent. In addition to practicing, participating students will receive coaching from orchestra members.

Shawn Humphries, band director at New Palestine High School, said Smith is up for the challenge of learning alongside the pros.

“Cameron put himself in this situation by spending so much time practicing and seeking out other ways to play,” Humphries said.

Smith first picked up the oboe in sixth grade and after a couple of years started taking private lessons.

He’s the type of student who reached his peak at the high school level long ago, Humphries said, and needed an opportunity like the Side-by-Side program to grow.

“He’s very naturally talented combined with an unbelievable work ethic,” Humphries said.

Smith also has auditioned for the all-state band, a group he was part of last year. He’ll find out if he made it again in March.

He plans to audition at four colleges in February before settling on a place to further his musical education. The University of Cincinnati is his first choice.

Smith is the fourth New Palestine student selected to participate in the Side-by-Side program during the 12 years Humphries has led the band program. Last year, one New Palestine musician and Greenfield-Central musician were the county’s only students selected to participate.

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Kristy Deer is a reporter at the Greenfield Daily Reporter. She can be reached at 317-477-3262 or kdeer@greenfieldreporter.com.