The Seattle Symphony's annual concert in Olympia, happening tonight, features world-renowned pianist Simon Trpceski and another special guest - Olympia High School senior Clare Wheeler.
Trpceski will perform Saint Saens Piano Concerto No. 2 in G minor. Wheeler, 18, will play violin with the symphony for Chausson’s Symphony in B-flat major.
The concert, celebrating the 25th anniversary of conductor Gerard Schwartz, features music from France in the late 19th century.
“That was the era of Impressionist painting,” said symphony spokeswoman Beth Ferlic, “and people were pushing boundaries in classical music as well.”
Wheeler was chosen to perform with the symphony at this concert through the Gold Medalist program, which allows teachers to nominate outstanding student musicians.
“This was kind of a big surprise,” she said. “I’m excited about it.”
“When you’re an 18-year-old kid playing with the Seattle Symphony, it doesn’t get much better than that,” said Clare’s proud dad, Thurston County Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Joseph Wheeler.
It’s not her first time playing with the Seattle Symphony, though. She’s been part of the all-state and all-Northwest orchestras, which were invited to play side by side with the orchestra at Benaroya Hall two years ago.
“She’s very talented,” Ferlic said.
Wheeler is the concertmaster of Olympia High School’s symphony and chamber orchestras. The chamber orchestra this year won first place in the Washington State Music Educators’ State Solo and Ensemble Contest, and she was part of a piano quintet that placed third in the competition.
Wheeler will attend Bard College in upstate New York next year. She hasn’t decided whether to major in music, but she definitely plans to continue playing and studying music.
“I started playing when I was about 5,” she said. “My parents started me on an instrument, and as I got older, it was as important to me as a sport would be to other kids.”
Music runs in the Wheeler family. Wheeler’s paternal grandfather was Joseph F. Wheeler, a professional musician and the founder of the Port Townsend arts organization Centrum.
“He’s smiling from his grave,” Joseph Wheeler said. “He always wanted a kid who was a musician.”
“Whenever my grandpa would come over, we would play concerts for him,” Clare Wheeler said. “I think about him when I go on stage. He died this past year, and that’s definitely a big motivation for me, playing for my grandpa.”