Most young aspiring musicians looking to become performers head to music conservatories or schools with a strong music department in this country.
Not Kate Szumowski.
A French hornist, she recently graduated from Broadalbin-Perth High School and has been a member of the Empire State Youth Orchestra for the past five years. Now she’s headed to the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland to major in performance.
“I wanted to travel when I was still young,” Szumowski said. “I had a friend who was a German immigrant who suggested I check out international schools. That was two years ago.”
She began checking around and once she discovered she could audition with tapes and have virtual interviews that would gain acceptance into an international school possible, she never looked back.
“That’s what I wanted and I could see the opportunities,” Szumowski said. “I want to play in an international orchestra, in operas and do movie sound tracks. Then I want to get my master’s in music education and teach kids and then found my own music institution for underprivileged kids to further their own abilities.”
Ambitious goals but typical for Szumowski. Music doesn’t run in the family but musical theater connections do.
“My grandmother sings and my aunts did musical theater and my mom started a musical theater program,” she said. “My mom is an elementary school teacher at Broadalbin and she started a musical theater program. She never was my school teacher but was my drama teacher in ‘Sound of Music’. It was a great collaboration.”
Szumowski herself started piano at age 6 — her brother Jack, who is four years older, tried guitar but preferred baseball. Then in third grade she started voice lessons, which by fifth grade continued weekly through high school, as well as lessons in mandolin and violin. She tried musical theater but decided that — not being a dancer — she’d opt out. Instead, she discovered French horn.
“I saw French horn and decided to dedicate my life to that,” she said.
Over the next several years through high school, Szumowski performed in 25 school musicals as well as 40 others in the community, often co-directing, working as a member of the crew or teaching stage techniques to the drama students.
Besides the pit orchestras, she played in the school’s various bands and played piano for the chorus. At 16, she also started a summer vocal program from her home after finding that the community had only one vocal studio. Currently she has 12 students. She also applied herself to her schoolwork and is this year’s salutatorian.
“I drive myself sometimes,” Szumowski said with a laugh. “You need a star to shoot for and go from there.”
All this plus her years in ESYO, which recently awarded her with the Barry Richman Careers in Music Scholarship. And, possibly being inspired by her musical commitment, her high school revamped the music department and offered a course in music theory for the first time, which reaffirmed her own direction to be in music as a career, she said.
But about two years ago, Szumowski began looking to where she wanted to go for college. Knowing of her interest in pursuing an international connection, she began researching the possibilities and was particularly drawn to the conservatories in Scotland and Wales.
“I had meetings with the brass heads and decided the Scots was a better fit … and people that I met would help me to where I wanted to go. The school is considered the third best in the world. It’s based in Glasgow. It’s an up and coming music city and I’d be in the heart of it.”
The school, which was founded in 1847, teaches all disciplines including theatre, film and production and has up to about 850 students just in the music department. Competition to be accepted is stiff. After making her initial application last October, the school contacted her in November asking for an audition tape. Szumowski prepared a tape that included several orchestral excerpts and two solos that she recorded at her home. By Christmas, she received word that she’d been accepted.
Her father, Edward, who is a software developer, and her mom, Jennifer, were initially concerned about her being so far from home.
“But both my parents understand the importance of the arts,” she said. “They’re both on board now and are excited for me to become a professional musician.”
They were all going to visit the school and had a virtual tour, but the omnicron variant destroyed that plan, she said. Instead, Szumowski made a friend in Glasgow online who showed her on Google maps where everything was located and she already has an apartment, which will be a three-minute walk from the school.
Best of all, she now has a new French horn that her parents bought her a couple of weeks ago in Boston that she loves to play on. And she leaves for Glasgow on Sept. 15.
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Categories: Entertainment, Life and Arts, Life and Arts