Naperville Central oboist named scholarship winner
A Naperville student whose musical accomplishments include performances with Ben Folds and Blue Man Group now has a new honor to add to her list.
Naperville Central High School senior oboist Kayla Bull impressed a panel of professional musician alumni who rewarded her with a $1,000 scholarship in honor of the school's longtime choral instructor, musical director and music department chairman.
Kayla, 17, said she's pleased the John Pearce Performing Arts Scholarship can help her pursue music in college, where she hopes to gain new memories and experiences. Because she's already had some pretty cool ones.
Kayla said she didn't know Folds' music before his concert last June at the Chicago Theatre, but she was surrounded by fans who did.
"There were people screaming while we were playing," Kayla said. "At orchestra halls, you don't even breathe loudly."
Kayla and her fellow musicians again were challenged to stay professional when they accompanied Blue Man Group at the Pritzker Pavilion at Millennium Park.
"We tried not to freak out over them and keep our cool onstage during the concert because there was stuff flying everywhere and they were throwing paddles and confetti and glitter," Kayla said.
Blue-painted performers and flying props aren't the norm at Kayla's oboe performances, such as the solo she performed on a Thursday evening to audition for the John Pearce scholarship.
She knew the audition went well, and so did Raeleen Horn, a Naperville Central alum and retired longtime Palatine High School band director who leads the committee that created the scholarship.
"Her interpretation of the piece -- everything just took us emotionally," Horn said. "I can see why she is the principal in the Chicago Youth Symphony Orchestra."
Word of winning the scholarship caused Kayla to do a double-take, just as most pieces of mail she's received while applying to music programs at colleges such as Indiana University and Lawrence University in Appleton, Wisconsin.
"Friday during music theory class, I got an envelope delivered and it said, 'Congratulations, you are the recipient.'" Kayla said. "I had to read it a couple times. Like with college letters I've been getting."
Kayla says she's still deciding where to attend college. If she chooses Indiana University, she could study under a professor she met in 2014 at a summer music camp at the prestigious Interlochen Center for the Arts in Michigan.
Kayla has been taking private lessons for several years from Alicia Cordoba Tait, a former music professor at Benedictine University, who happens to be a high-school classmate of her musically inclined parents. But focusing on the art at Interlochen was different.
"That was the first time I really discovered that I loved the thought of studying music," Kayla says about her days at Interlochen, which were filled with rehearsals, master oboe classes, even lessons on making her own reeds for the woodwind instrument.
"It was the first time I had played for eight or nine hours in the day."
Kayla's band director, DJ Alstadt, said she continues to put in the time necessary to excel at her craft. In music, as in any pursuit, it takes patience to be excellent. And Kayla shows it, Alstadt said.
"She is someone who is very, very beyond her years and yet is very humbling for other students because she really gives back to our music program," he said. "She helps other kids with their music, she's kind, she's gracious."
Alstadt said Kayla embodies the spirit of Pearce, who taught choirs and directed musicals at Naperville Central from 1965 to '85. Creation last year of the scholarship, open to any senior graduating from the band, choir or orchestra, has brought more connection among musical students at Central and given young performers a goal toward which to aspire.
"When you get something that involves all three disciplines and the best are invited to audition for this scholarship, it gets kids to get to know the other kids better," Alstadt said.
"Other students auditioned and may not have won the scholarship, but simply standing in front of a committee, playing a solo, going through an interview process, writing a paper -- I think it's good for kids to do that."