This musician’s swan song is sure to be just his start

Meet the Future: Cellist Zachary Earle

(courtesy photo) Zachary Earle was invited to play at the free performance at John Ball Zoo

Editor’s note: Creative, innovative, imaginative … Many of today’s students are all that and more in a vast variety of interest areas. This new series, ‘Meet the Future,’ features students with exceptional and unusual gifts.

Name: Zachary Earle
School: East Kentwood High School
Jam: Cello

Zachary, a senior, performed the piece “The Swan,” by Camille Saint-Saëns, as a soloist with the Grand Rapids Symphony Orchestra during a free concert at John Ball Park. He was invited to perform by Music Director Marcelo Lehinger.

(courtesy Doug Sims Photography) Zachary Earle recently performed with the Grand Rapids Symphony

How old were you when playing cello became something you wanted to pursue, and what’s the story there? I was 11 years old when I started the cello at Pinewood Middle School, under Mr. (Eric) Hudson, who is still my orchestra teacher today. From sixth to eighth grade, I was fourth chair. I didn’t practice much. I loved it, but it wasn’t the main focus for me. I was really into video games. I ran track and field, so I was pretty serious about that.

My freshman year, I really wanted to get better. I was sick of being fourth. I  asked my parents for a teacher. They looked around and found Mr. Will Preece (cellist in the Grand Rapids Symphony). Since then I have grown exponentially. I got really good really fast.I’ve been first chair since my freshman year. I guess it paid off.

Over time, I got more and more serious about cello. I studied the nooks and crannies of it, looked at every video I could to try and get better.

List a few accomplishments related to this: 

  • My duo partner, Cameron Gouin (a senior violinist) and I were nominated for the best duo through the Michigan School Band and Orchestra Association Solo and Ensemble Competition.
  • I play in the Grand Rapids Youth Symphony, and received honorable mention in their 2018 Skip Gates Concerto Competition.
  • I was chosen to participate in the Michigan Youth Arts Festival Honors Orchestra, and also to compete in the Michigan School Band Orchestra Association Concerto Competition along with eight other cellists in Michigan.
  • I perform on a 1944 Bargelli Giuseppe cello on loan from Guarneri House.
  • I performed at the Sphinx Performance Academy, a full-scholarship intensive summer chamber music and solo performance program with a focus on cultural diversity, for string musicians ages 11-17; at the Curtis Institute of Music, in Philadelphia; and at the Cleveland Institute of Music. At the institutes, I had lessons with professional cellists.
  • I was nominated to perform in the 2019 Meyer Music High School Honors Orchestra at Hastings High School under Jose Mauratua, director of orchestral studies at Central Michigan University.

Is there a teacher or teachers who have had a big impact on your involvement in this? Eric Hudson, Will Preece and Aaron Reiley, who loans me instruments from Guarneri House.

Do you plan to pursue this professionally? If so, envision yourself 10/20 years from now. If not, envision yourself 10/20 years from now: Yes. I plan to be a performance major in college. (Top choices are Central Michigan University, University of Michigan, Cleveland Institute of Music, Johns Hopkins Peabody Institute and Colburn School.)

In 10/20 years, hopefully, I’m still playing cello somewhere in an orchestra. My dream has always been to be a solo artist or a chamber musician playing with a group of people. I’m totally fine playing in a great orchestra somewhere. As long as I have cello in my life, I’m happy.

Outside of this, what are your other hobbies/interests/little-known talents? 

I tend to draw a lot. On vacation, when my cello’s back at home, I take out a notebook and start sketching. I also like to read. I just finished “Fail until You Don’t” by Bobby Bones. The thing I do the most is listen to a lot of music.

Parents/Siblings: Mom K’sandra Earle, associate director of Early Learning Neighborhood Collaborative; dad Howard Earle, pastor of New Hope Baptist Church. Two sisters, Natalie, a fourth grader, and Dylan, a freshman. I’m the only musician in the family.

The biggest lesson you have learned from your involvement in playing this instrument is…Trying to be patient. You are not going to get these things right when you want to. It takes time. You can’t rush the process.

If you walked into your school building to theme music by a favorite artist or band, what would the song be? Probably something by (rapper) J.Cole

Erin Albanese
Erin Albanese has worked as a journalist in the Grand Rapids area since 2000. A graduate of Central Michigan University, she has written for The Grand Rapids Press, Advance Newspapers and On-the-Town Magazine. She has been covering the many exciting facets of K-12 public education for School News Network since 2013. Read Erin's full bio or email Erin.

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