Zach Warren picked up a flute for the first time as an 8-year-old.
His new silver instrument was cold to the touch. The first note he learned was D-flat. You didnt have to use any fingers, he laughs now. I was very excited.
Zach had always wanted to play a flute. Hed learned the recorder from his mother, a music education teacher in Cabarrus County, and would turn the instrument to the side so he could pretend it was a flute.
Now, after almost a decade of practicing, Zach, a senior at Hickory Grove Christian School, has become quite good.
Good enough to be named principal flute of the Charlotte Symphony Youth Orchestra, and as a junior, to be chosen as principal flute in the All-District and All-State Honors bands. He also has been in the Charlotte Youth Wind Ensemble (and will audition again for this years group, in December). This honor band of just 70 students, culled by audition each year from public and private schools in both Carolinas, is sponsored by UNCCs Department of Music.
Zach also beat out students nationally to earn a spot in the prestigious Brevard Music Center this past summer. At the center, about 400 students, ages 14 through post-college, study with distinguished faculty and renowned guest artists.
Hes a once-in-a-decade find, says Jennifer Dior, Zachs private flute teacher. She is a graduate of the Manhattan School of Music in New York.
Hes just Wow.
Being selected as the principal flute in All-District and All-State bands was amazing, Zach said. It also was more of a responsibility ... Rule No. 1 in section playing is Always match your principal. Thats a lot of pressure!
He finds that as he gets older, the performing part gets easier, but the preparing part gets harder. (Performing) has become more of a thrill for me.
Every Thursday after school, Zach prepares by attending lessons at Diors home off Independence Boulevard.
He starts his 3 p.m. lesson with warm-up scales, then dabbles in Mozart (a composer whose work shows all of a musicians flaws, he says) and French composer Henri Dutilleux.
Dior provides instruction as Zach plays: A little more gradual, but thats it, she said. Zach sways from side to side with the rhythm of the piece and allows the end of his flute to dip occasionally.
Were working on the musicality, Dior said. Details, shape of the piece, dynamic, just adding that extra piece that makes it exceptional.
Zach explains that musicality is a musicians personal touch given to a piece, while dynamics are the volumes and intensities of a piece.
There are spots in every piece that are loud or quiet, calm or fiery, fast or slow, he said. Dynamics are simply a vehicle to achieve the specific musicality you are striving for in a piece, as well as tone color and vibrato.
Zach said he applies the skills hes gained in flute lessons to the lessons he teaches every Tuesday; hes instructing two high school students.
While flute is his primary instrument, he doesnt always stick to it. Hes also picked up piano, piccolo and clarinet.
Chris Rydel, manager of the Charlotte Symphony Youth Orchestra, praises Zach for his diligence and talent. Zach works hard, is committed to always doing his best and is a genuine and positive kid, Rydel said. We are thrilled that he is in our program.
The Charlotte Symphony Youth Orchestras comprised of the Junior Youth Orchestra and the Charlotte Symphony Youth Orchestra are 185 musicians from more than 60 schools in the Charlotte area. This year, about 300 students auditioned for seats in one of the two youth orchestras, according to the orchestras website.
At Hickory Grove, Zach is a member of the high school wind ensemble and former member of the high school jazz and pep bands.
To balance all his commitments, Zach said he keeps a daily to-do schedule in a journal. There, he details practice times, concerts and homework assignments. That way Im not confused when I have all of these things swirling around in my head, Zach said.
Taylor Caton, director of bands at Hickory Grove Christian School, offers advice to Zach, what he tells all talented musicians: Stay calm and focused, and really go after things. You have to really invest yourself, because its super easy to get distracted.