Passion drives students to earn music scholarships
PRESCOTT - In 1697, William Congreve wrote an oft-quoted line in his play, "The Mourning Bride," that "music has charms to soothe a savage beast."
In addition to being soothing, music is inspirational, emotional, and - for two Prescott High School students - profitable.
Caia Decker, 19, a 2009 PHS graduate, and James Grandjean, 18, who graduates from PHS this month, won a total of $5,000 in a scholarship from the Yavapai Symphony Association (YSA.)
"We choose the scholarship winners based on their application, music talent, their performances and their education goals," said Jayne Nordstrom, YSA board member and scholarship chair. "We interview teachers who can vouch for them, and some of the symphony members have followed their progress over the years."
Decker's forte is piano and Grandjean's is singing. Decker also won a 2009 YSA scholarship.
"Performing is so awesome," Grandjean said Monday while the two rehearsed for a performance which will take place 2:30 p.m. Sunday, May 23, at the Yavapai College Performance Hall. "There is nothing like that feeling when you are able to create an intimate connection with the audience through music."
Decker, a petite brunette, started piano lessons when she was 6 years old and has "been doing it ever since."
"It helps keep me grounded and relaxed. It takes away the stress if I have a bad day," she said. "I can't imagine life without music."
Grandjean, who stands more than 6 feet tall, started in theater when he was about 6 years old and took his first voice lessons when he was 11.
Decker and Grandjean's level of talent did not come easily. It took a lot of hard work and more hours of practice than they could hope to count.
"My mom (Susie Decker) kept me in practice when I didn't feel like it," Decker said. "Practice, practice, practice. Every day."
"Every day," Grandjean added.
Although the two musicians share an equal passion about classical and jazz music, their tastes differ on other music genres.
"My favorite music is country," Decker said. "I like the twangy sound and the emotion in the stories they tell."
Grandjean likes alternative rock, and "old, old country music."
"But I always wish I could scat," he added. Scat is a type of vocal improvisation in which a singer creates random vocals, melodies and rhythms and creates an instrumental solo using his or her voice.
During a Monday rehearsal, Decker's fingers danced up and down her piano's keyboard producing a sound worthy of any performance hall, while Grandjean's baritone voice rang out with a clarity and resonance that rattled rafters.
Grandjean, 18, faces a challenge that is typical of young men his age - his voice continues to change. He said that his voice would not be "mature" until his early to mid-20s.
Decker is a freshman at Northern Arizona University, majoring in choral music education. Grandjean starts at Arizona State University this coming fall, majoring in vocal performances. She wants to be a teacher, and he wants to be a performer.
At the end of each performance, when Decker strikes her last key and Grandjean sounds his last note, an invisible moment occurs between performer and audience.
"There's this moment of silence and you just know you got it - you can feel it in the air," Grandjean said. "The audience got the meaning and emotion behind the music."
"After I finish, I hold my hand over the keys and then set them in my lap," Decker said. "There's this moment of silence and that's when you know you nailed it."
Yavapai Symphony Association presents Decker's and Grandjean's scholarships at 2:30 p.m. Sunday at the Yavapai College Performance Hall. At 3 p.m., the Phoenix Symphony performs for YSA's final concert of the season.
For information about seating and tickets, call 776-4255 or visit www.yavapaisymphony.org.