Photo courtesy of Keeley Brooks
Despite distractions such as hair styling and high heels, Keeley Brooks performed her violin solo flawlessly.

LBHS student Keeley Brooks solos with Wenatchee Symphony

To fully appreciate this story, you should revisit the account of how Keeley Brooks treated as a prank the phone call from the Wenatchee Symphony informing her that she had won the Angela Schuster Svendsen Memorial Young Musician Competition – and inviting her to perform a violin solo with the symphony (http://methowvalleynews.com/2018/04/18/winthrop-april-18-2018).

Short story is, it wasn’t a prank call, and Keeley, now a sophomore at Liberty Bell High School, soloed with the Wenatchee Symphony on Oct. 6, presenting the first movement of Mendessohn’s Violin Concerto in E minor.

Keeley, the daughter of Erik and Sarah Brooks, typically plays her violin in her bedroom. But she played in different areas of her house in anticipation of the concert, so that she could get used to different acoustics. When the time came for the concert, she would only have two brief rehearsals with the orchestra in the giant hall of the Numera Performing Arts Center.

Listening to recordings of the Mendelssohn piece, as she had been doing for two years, also helped Keeley get ready for her solo. “When I finally got to practice with the orchestra,” Keeley says, “I just pretended I was playing along with the recording so that I wouldn’t be so nervous. And it sounded just like the recording!”

Keeley also prepared by practicing other aspects of the performance that could possibly – um – trip her up, such as the high heels she would be wearing with her formal dress. “Falling was my biggest fear of the whole night,” admits the girl who was about to play a difficult 15-minute memorized piece in front of 550 classical music aficionados.

As a student athlete who spends more time in running shoes and ski boots than formal wear, Keeley knew that walking on and off stage in heels that she had only worn a few times for school dance photos would be one of her most formidable challenges of the evening, so she practiced walking around her house.

All aglitter

Wearing high heels was not the only glamorous aspect of the evening. Keeley also got her hair done in a salon for the first time. “The best part,” she says, “was that they put glitter in my hair.” She explains further: “In cross-country running, we all put glitter in our hair and on our cheeks for good luck. So even though I had to miss the cross-country meet that was happening that day in Leavenworth, all of my teammates were texting me photos of themselves with their glitter and telling me ‘good luck,’ and there I was with glitter in my hair as well. It was a neat connection.”

Prior to the concert, the conductor hosted a pre-concert educational talk and asked Keeley to come onstage and introduce herself, after which he asked her about the congratulatory phone call. Keeley assumed that because he asked about the phone call, he knew about the whole snafu with her thinking it was a prank call, so she answered in the same vein. But the conductor hadn’t heard the story, so Keeley’s answer seemed a bit unusual, until the man who had actually made the call, the symphony’s board president, spoke up from the audience and shared the now-humorous account of his initial call to Keeley.

The night of the concert, Keeley walked on stage without incident, played her solo beautifully, and then walked offstage without falling. Phew! Both hurdles cleared. But then she had to walk back onstage to take a bow, and the conductor threw her for a loop by handing her a bouquet of flowers ensconced in a giant water-filled Mason jar. “I had my violin and bow in one hand,” says Keeley, “so I had to grab the Mason jar in the other hand. My hand barely fit around the jar and I was so worried I was going to drop the jar on the stage. That was the scariest thing.” But Keeley didn’t drop the vase, and somehow she made it off stage.

Standing backstage after her solo, Keeley says, “was so cool. I got to think about what I had just done. And I realized that this was what I wanted to do for the rest of my life.”