This term we are celebrating two phenomenal musicians who have practically dedicated their lives to their craft. Two very similar artists who have started young have built their music platform up to where they can claim to be one of the best musicians in the school. Grace O’Connell and Gabe Lemke have clearly overstepped the boundaries when it comes to musicianship and conforming to the clear beauty of music.
You may know O’Connell from seeing her jam out with her beloved trumpet with the Pep Band out in Lussier Stadium during the Friday Night Lights, or dressed in her very best at the band concerts. But little did you know that her musical journey actually began plunking on piano keys. “Though trumpet is my main instrument, I actually started on the piano. My parents made sure my sisters and I had a sense of musicality growing up. However it was obvious that piano was not the instrument for me. My mom and sister thought that the trumpet was very similar to my personality and something I could possibly excel at. They say that whenever they would see a trumpet player in action they would think of me. So one day I got home from school and found a rented trumpet in our kitchen,” she said. Since then O’Connell has blown herself (pun intended) into the magical abyss of music, music and more music! “I just got first place in the National Trumpet Competition playing the Bohme Trumpet Concerto. I am a classically trained trumpet player, meaning my main genre of music is classical music. However I absolutely adore jazz and recently joined the amazing Orquesta SalSoul Del Mad. Salsa music is very new to me and they are so kind to let me play with them and learn from them. I also have played with the Darren Sterud Orchestra which is an amazing group of musicians who play jazz so wonderfully. I have been apart of the Wisconsin Youth Symphony Orchestra since Freshman year. With this amazing orchestra I have played on concert tours of both Italy and Peru. Last year WYSO created a brass quintet that I play principal trumpet in. The brass quintet this year is all females which is so empowering I absolutely love being able to create music with such amazing musicians. I am also apart of the LHS band as well as the second block jazz band,” she added. Her plans will continue on even after her high school career. “I am in between colleges right now, it's a very tough choice. However my career goals are to be an orchestral trumpet player, to teach at the university level, and to just play!...I am going to be a lifelong student of music and the trumpet and that excites me beyond anything else,” she concluded.
At just the age of six, Lemke discovered the wonders of playing the piano, and at age 11 he discovered his passion for the trumpet. Along with playing both those instruments Lemke also developed a kick out of composing his own music. “I just started one day. I can't remember how or why, except that it felt natural. Its like when you get a song stuck in your head, except it's your own musical thoughts and ideas. Since then I have worked really hard during my free time to learn as much as I can without taking any formal classes in it,” he said. Through discovering his newly acclaimed talent, Lemke as a result has been hours upon hours of his free time creating different pieces of music. “I can't really name a favorite, it's like trying to pick a favorite child. You just can't. Each piece is unique in its own way, and each one gets better as I improve as a musician. To my current standards, my first songs are not very good but when considering they were written when I was eight they aren't all that bad. I have performed all of my pieces one way or another, but only a few have been played by others. The feeling of sitting back and listening to your music being played by somebody else is beyond explanation,” he mentioned.
Of course with teachers and mentors like Linda Johnson, Mark Cyra, Darren Sterud and Kathy Punwar supporting him through and through, there was no obstacle that Lemke couldn’t break down. No matter the challenge, he took it face on and conquered, and as he leaves the school this year he wants others to pursue their dreams just as he will pursue his major in Interior architecture and minor in Music/Composition at UW Stevens Point. “If you want to try something new and don't know where to start, just start anyway. If I would've known everything that goes into writing one piece of music I may not have ever started. That's why sometimes you just need to take a leap of faith; to take risks. I have gotten to perform around the country and meet so many incredible people, all because one day I decided I just wanted to start writing music,” he concluded. Congratulations to these two powerful musicians, we wish you luck in all of your future endeavors!