One of the musicians performing this weekend with the San Juan Symphony Youth Orchestra is no stranger to the stage. Casey Reed has been playing violin since he was 5.
Now a freshman at Durango High School, he has racked up an impressive list of accomplishments, including serving as concertmaster for the DHS orchestra and spending the summer immersed in classes and performances.
In April, Casey won the prestgious San Juan Symphony Youth Concerto Competition with the Max Bruch Violin Concerto No. 1 movement 3. He competed against 11 fellow musicians for the honor.
“There are a couple of kids in the orchestra that are really high quality. We have a great group ... I thought there were some other kids that were going to win it,” he said, adding that the concerto was a tough piece – one he worked on for about a year.
“There are a lot of fast parts in that. And in between them are a bunch of lyrical parts, and they’re both very different to learn,” he said.
After that win, Casey was accepted into Heifetz International Music Institute and Indiana University Summer String Academy, for which he received a $1,500 Artistic Merit Award.
It was at the String Academy that he studied with Grigory Kalinovsky, something he said was a highlight of his summer.
While at the academy, he also auditioned for and ended up playing second violin on the Mendelssohn Viola Quintet, Op.18 with faculty members Sarah Kapustin and Roeland Jagers.
Casey has also auditioned for the Western States Honor Orchestra Festival and earned a spot in the Symphony Orchestra, Violin II, fourth chair, and was invited to play in a master class in Taos, New Mexico.
Along the way, his mother, Cindy Bonitz-Ryan, said he has been taught by Allison Carson, Bethany Wanket, Andrew Wilson, Odin Rathnam, Brandon Christensen and Molly Jensen, along with a host of others.
Jensen, director of the DHS orchestra and conductor for the San Juan Symphony Youth Orchestra Philharmonic, has worked with Casey since elementary school, both in music class at Needham Elementary and in private lessons. Now, she works with him in the DHS orchestra, and he also helps with younger musicians in the Youth Orchestra.
“Even though he was a member of the (Youth) Symphony, he came to those extra rehearsals and helped out and was such a huge asset to that group,” she said. “I really like the way he works with younger kids and his peers because he is the concertmaster of my high school orchestra, so he leads the sectionals. The way he works with his peers is really tremendous to watch.”
Despite all the hard work, playing violin is still fun, Casey said.
“It’s definitely hard, and it takes up a lot of my time, but I definitely enjoy it,” he said. “And performances afterwards, when people come up to you and say thank you, it makes you feel good.”
While managing his time is challenging, especially now that he is in high school – and playing basketball – Casey said music is still an important part of who he is.
“I guess it is a little bit of an outlet for me; words aren’t my strong suit, so I have to have some way of expressing myself, and music allows me to do that,” he said. “I don’t just do it for me; I’ve played at family gatherings, old folks homes, schools. It always just seems to affect their day.”