By Steven Law
Achieving harmony takes a lot of work, practice and natural talent but when it all comes together it’s a beautiful thing.
Melanie Robinson, a junior at Page High School, is only 17 years old, but she understands this better than most. Robinson is maintaining a 4.0 GPA — she’s one of seven junior class valedictorians — she’s playing the role Eulalie Mackechnie Shinn in the high school’s upcoming performance of “The Music Man,” she’s active in the Page Second Ward, recently completing her Personal Progress Award, which involves a lot of service hours to the community, and she was recently selected to be second chair in the all-state orchestra for French horn.
Orchestrating the right balance between school life, home life and church life can be challenging, but during the last year she’s found a nice, fulfilling harmony with it all.
Robinson earned the position of seventh chair in all-state band last year.
When she did it last year, she was the first student from Page High School to make all state band or orchestra in 15 years.
Her mother isn’t at all surprised by her daughter’s success.
“She’s very talented and she works very hard,” said Kristie Robinson. “She’s very committed to her instrument and music in general. Last summer, she purchased her own French horn. She works three jobs to pay for it on her own.”
She says it’s quite satisfying to see her daughter’s dedication getting some results.
“It makes me feel great seeing it recognized. All that time we invested is paying off. Receiving second chair for all-state orchestra is something that’s quite difficult and she represented herself, her family and her school very well.”
Melanie auditioned for regionals in Flagstaff last January, which earned her the right to audition for all-state, which she did in March. Fifty horns tried out, 13 were selected.
The auditions were blind auditions. The two judges sat behind a screen. The performers don’t speak. They only enter the room, play their piece and leave. That way the judges make their decisions solely on the performers expertise of the piece.
During the auditions, each performer plays an etude and a scale, and they don’t know until the time they play what etude and scale they’ll be asked to play. Adding to the intensity, the piece they’re given to perform is usually written in a different key than their horn. For instance, if the music is written in B and she’s playing a horn that’s in F, she’ll have to play a fifth down.
“You sight read on the fly, transpose it on the spot and play it,” said Melanie. “It’s very challenging. It’s like reading Spanish, transposing it into English in your mind and speaking English all at normal speed. When you do it perfectly, it feels very good. It’s very fulfilling.”
This is exactly what happened at regionals.
She played the very challenging “Firebird Suite” solo without missing any notes.
“It felt great!” she said.
Melanie says playing horn in orchestra is her favorite way to perform because she’s one of several horns, but each horn plays its own note and together they create a harmony.
But it also makes playing in orchestra all the more intense, she said.
“I’m the only one playing the part written for the second horn,” she said. “If I miss a note, it will be very noticeable, but it sounds amazing when we get it right!”
Melanie started playing the French horn in seventh grade.
“The horn is amazing!” she said. “When I hear a horn solo in a movie such as “Star Wars,” it always sets the mood. It’s usually placed to make you feel something sad.”
Melanie plans on majoring in music when she attends college, but hasn’t yet decided if she’ll focus on the performance or education side of it.
“I like that no one can be perfect at it,” she said. “Even people who have been playing the French horn for years still miss a note from time to time. I’m looking forward to a lifetime of perfecting the French horn.”