By Ashley Lodato
When ninth-grader Keeley Brooks was 8 years old, she began listening to a recording of Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto in E minor played by violinist Hilary Hahn and became quite familiar with and fond of it. So about 18 months ago when Keeley’s violin teacher asked her “What piece would you like to play before you graduate high school?” Keeley’s immediate response was “Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto in E minor.”
Keeley and her teacher began picking away at the first movement of the piece with no real goal in mind other than to learn it eventually. But then Keeley heard of the opportunity to compete in the Angela Schuster Svendsen Memorial Young Musician Competition, sponsored by the Wenatchee Valley Symphony Orchestra, and decided to enter.
As the competition required young musicians to play a concerto, the timing seemed fortuitous; Keeley decided to audition with the first movement of Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto in E minor.
In early March Keeley played at the competition, which was held at Grace Lutheran Church in Wenatchee. Afterwards, the judges said that winners would be announced within two weeks, and that the top two musicians would be invited to perform with the orchestra in its next season.
The following week, Keeley was texting with her fun-loving uncle Andy about the competition and he wrote, “We should talk, I’ll call you.” So when the phone rang, Keeley answered, expecting Andy on the line. The man’s voice on the other end said, “Hi Keeley, this is Larry McCracken of the Wenatchee Valley Symphony Orchestra. Congratulations, you’ve won the youth music competition.”
Keeley, thinking that her prankster uncle was pulling one of his usual jokes on her, decided to play the game and said something along the lines of “Oh, well that’s just dandy.” The man talked at length about the competition and the schedule for playing with the orchestra. Keeley kept responding as if she were just humoring her uncle, with dramatic and sarcastic retorts.
Finally the man said “You don’t live in Wenatchee, right? Where do you live?” Keeley, thinking that it was time to wrap up the joke, said, “Yes, I live far away, in Portugal.” There was a long pause, and then the man said, “This is a serious phone call.” It was indeed Larry McCracken, board president of the Wenatchee Valley Symphony Orchestra.
Even if you don’t know Keeley Brooks, you can imagine her mortification; if you do know her, you’re probably visibly wincing right now. But it all ended up well, and when Mr. McCracken introduced Keeley onstage at the orchestra’s final performance of the season last Saturday night, he was very friendly and even admitted to her that he himself has been known to play a good joke every now and again.
Keeley will be playing her Mendelssohn piece, accompanied by the Wenatchee Valley Symphony Orchestra, at a yet-to-be-determined date in October or November.