It seems some people are born with the gift of music. For others, musical ability may take hours of practice and dedication on their part.
For Smith-Cotton junior Hannah Wagenknecht, her talents have been a combination of both genetics and a desire to be the best she can be in her musical endeavors.
Her efforts have recently paid off as she has been selected to attend the Missouri Fine Arts Academy this summer at Missouri State University in Springfield.
“I’m very excited about the opportunity I have been given,” Wagenknecht said. “I am so looking forward to working and learning from other musicians but not just musicians, but writers, dancers and visual artists.
“There are a lot of things that I want to learn and still feel I need to learn,” Wagenknecht added. “This will give me new challenges and perspectives.”
The three-week program is a summer residential program for highly motivated students in the artistic fields, according to the group’s website.
Hannah was nominated for the award by Michael Moellman, her high school orchestra director, and by Grant Maledy, director of bands at S-C.
She also plays first violin pieces for the Sedalia Symphony. Wagenknecht has played with the symphony for four years and is one of its youngest members.
“Hannah is first and foremost a really great musician,” Moellman said. “She has a tremendous attitude and she is so willing to give her time and knowledge to help others.
“She doesn’t let her excellent musical ability get in the way of helping other students and she always understands the time and place for everything,” he added.
Maledy, who attended the academy as a high school student, agreed with Moellman’s assessment of Wagenknecht.
“Hannah is a talented musician and a great student who works hard for her accomplishments,” Maledy said. “I am sure she will excel at the Fine Arts Academy, first because she is a self-starter and is dedicated to her performances, but she will also do well because she will be surrounded by others who have a similar background and drive.”
For Wagenknecht, her drive and dedication also involve her love of the violin.
“I have a passion for the violin, I think I breathe it,” Wagenknecht said with a laugh. “It is constantly challenging to me and I like to be challenged.
“I had absolutely no experience when I picked a violin up for the first time when I was 6 or 7,” she added. “I really had no idea why I had an attraction to the violin but I simply love the feeling I have when I play.”
Wagenknecht said attending a middle school concert her brother performed in helped to foster her love for the orchestra, as did her father, who fostered her love of percussion.
“My father was in a band, The Brink, that was pretty well known in the area in the ’80s,” Wagenknecht said. “He likes to tell me stories from his adventures and tells me I should play with him and his friends on Sundays evenings after church.”
Wagenknecht added that the group had recorded some tapes and toured Florida and parts of the United States before his marriage and the birth of their children.
“I spend most of my free time with my family and friends,” Wagenknecht said. “Most of them are musical too and so we have a lot in common.
“I have made a lot of friends through my music,” Wagenknecht said. “This past weekend I was at the University of Missouri-Kansas City’s Honor Orchestra and I met some people there who I will stay in touch with I’m certain.”
One of her treasured friends she has met through her music is her violin teacher, Barbara Schroeder.
“I’ve been taking private lessons with Barbara for seven years now,” Wagenknecht said. “She has helped me so much in my development as a musician.
“She is constantly challenging me to work on my selections and to choose works that help me to grow,” Wagenknecht added. “The selection I am working on from the district competition is incredibly challenging but I’m not going to give up on it; I have never given up on a piece.”
The selection :Sicilenne and Riguadon” is, according to Wagenknecht, the most challenging piece she has ever played.
“Barbara gives me two pieces during the summer and asks me to work on them,” Wagenknecht said. “Then we sit down and we chose the piece I will play at contest together.
“She always asks me to look at the things I mess up with the piece and then asks me if I can clean them up easily,” Wagenknecht added. “I have learned tons from this piece but it is starting to come together now.”
The District music competition is in March and the State music contest is in April. Wagenknecht is familiar with both, earning an I rating as a freshman and then again as a sophomore.
Wagenknecht not only has personal goals to return to the State Music Competition but she has a goal for the arts department at school as well.
“It would be incredible if more students would become involved in orchestra and band at the school,” Wagenknecht said. “It’s really hard to do with all the required classes because a lot of students have such full schedules that it is difficult to find the balance and to take classes in the arts.
“For me there have been so many benefits and it’s been fun to play in both groups,” Wagenknecht added. “I’ve been so fortunate to have them because my music has always been there for me; if I am having a bad day I start to practice and I forget all about the day because of the joy music can bring.”
Hope Lecchi can be reached at 660-826-1000 ext. 1484