If you want to find Kathleen McFarland, your odds are pretty good she will be in the Edwardsville High School orchestra room.
Now in her senior year, Kathleen — who goes by Kat — is in all three orchestras at EHS, which is three class periods out of the day in the orchestra room. She returns during a study hall for extra practice. As a senior, she has only two non-orchestra classes left, so most of her time is spent with a violin or viola in her hands.
Kat performs with the St. Louis Symphony Youth Orchestra and Webster University’s Preparatory Program, as well as the Suzuki program at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville, having toured in four other countries before turning 18 years old.
Now she’s on her way to Carnegie Hall.
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On Halloween, Kat found out she had been selected for the High School Honors Performance Series at the elite Carnegie Hall in New York City.
“I was supposed to be gone all day, and Victoria (Voumard) called me,” Kat said. “I was pretty excited. I was kind of speechless... My mom told me she was glad she didn’t have to prepare an ‘It’s OK you didn’t make it’ speech.”
More than 18,000 young musicians from around the world auditioned for the program, but fewer than 750 were chosen. Kat will join musicians from Guam, Canada, Armenia, China, Japan, Mexico, Qatar, South Korea, the United Arab Emirates and others to perform at Carnegie.
Her EHS orchestra teacher, Victoria Voumard, said she is extremely proud of Kat, whom she describes as being “100-percent focused” on her goal of becoming a professional musician.
“She is not afraid to take big auditions and compete on a national and international level,” Voumard said. “She has some top-notch music teachers mentoring her, and she is very responsive to all of them. She has the drive, passion, work ethic and diligence to be incredibly successful.”
Kat began studying violin when she was 5 years old. While she began playing the viola as a freshman in high school, it is that instrument she will play at Carnegie. She has three private teachers in addition to Voumard: Laura Reycraft, Chris Tantillo and retired District 7 orchestra teacher Linda Bristol.
I feel if you love something and have a strong passion for it, follow your dreams, no matter what.
Kat McFarland, Edwardsville High School
Her mother, Kamilla McFarland, describes Kat as “very persistent. She has a big passion for it.”
McFarland credits Edwardsville District 7’s performing arts programs for creating an environment that lets a talent like Kat’s flourish. Between the SIUE Suzuki program, the community of teachers and a high school with three orchestras, it creates an environment for young musicians to grow, she said.
“If it wasn’t for the Edwardsville Orchestra program, there wouldn’t be much of a community for it in the southern part of the state,” McFarland said.
Q: What’s your favorite class?
A: Definitely orchestra. I’m also in honors English literature and web design. I could have graduated early, but this gives me more time to prepare for college and auditions. There are some great teachers here in St. Louis.
Q: Where are you planning to study after high school?
A: I’m looking at the New England Conservatory, the Cleveland Institute of Music and the Eastman School of Music in New York.
Q: When you found out you would be playing at Carnegie, how did you feel?
A: It was Halloween. I was supposed to be gone all day, and Victoria (Voumard) called me. … I was pretty excited. I was kind of speechless. My mom told me she was glad she didn’t have to prepare an ‘It’s OK you didn’t make it’ speech.
Q: How long do you spend practicing each day?
A: At least six hours, including orchestra classes and my study period, and then some at home.
Q: What about other activities?
A: I perform at churches and weddings — I’ve got to pay for those lessons. I like hanging out with my friends. They’re always there for me.
Q: Where’s your favorite restaurant or hangout?
A: Honestly? The orchestra room.
Q: Any advice for your fellow students?
A: I feel if you love something and have a strong passion for it, follow your dreams, no matter what.
Meet Kathleen “Kat” McFarland
- Age: 18
- School: Edwardsville High School
- Grade: Senior
- Family: Parents are Kerry and Kamilla McFarland ; older brother, Kollin McFarland
- Music teachers: Laura Reycraft, Chris Tantillo, Linda Bristol, Victoria Voumard, Vera McCoy-Sulentic and Vera Parkin
- Instruments played: violin, viola, bass, formerly played flute
- Places performed: Ireland, Germany, Switzerland and Austria with Suzuki Tour Group; World Chess Hall of Fame
- Orchestras: EHS Concert 1, Concert 2 and Symphonic orchestras; Webster University Preparatory Program; two years with St. Louis Symphony Youth Orchestra.
- Honors: principal viola in ILMEA All-District and All-State; winner of the John and Kay Kendall junior division concerto competition; best All-State string seminar award at Milliken University; High School Honors Performance Series at Carnegie Hall
- Favorite class: Orchestra
- Favorite food: Strawberries