Kiley Rowe headed for Carnegie Hall

How did she get there? The old joke is right: practice, practice, practice

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  • Kiley Rowe

“I remember watching a country music award show. There was a violinist on stage, and I really wanted to play it. I’ve been wanting to study ever since I knew what the violin was."
Kiley Rowe

By Ginny Privitar

— Violinist Kiley Rowe, 14, of Goshen was selected from among hundreds of talented young musicians to be included in the Carnegie Hall Middle School Honors Performance Program.

The five-day program invites elite middle school musicians to join the Honors Choir and Honors Instrumental Ensemble. Several days of rehearsal under the direction of renowned music conductors will culminate in an unforgettable performance on June 28 at Carnegie Hall.

Eighth-grader Kiley was nominated last October by her orchestra conductor at C.J. Hooker Middle School, Mrs. Kristen Calohan.

“Kiley is one of the most talented student musicians I have ever worked with," Calohan said. "She is self-motivated and has great musical intuition. She is a great leader and role model in the Goshen CSD orchestra program. I am so glad to have her as a student."

Kiley said, “I felt amazed that she would actually nominate me.”

She submitted a CD of her work and was selected from hundreds of students who auditioned.

'I wouldn't put it down'

Kiley’s journey to Carnegie Hall began when she was seven and heard the violin for the first time. She doesn’t remember the exact moment — but does recall looking at instruments in third grade.

“I remember watching a country music award show," she said. "There was a violinist on stage, and I really wanted to play it. I’ve been wanting to study ever since I knew what the violin was,” she said.

It was all her idea. And once her parents bought her a violin in the summer before she entered fourth grade and engaged a tutor, there was no stopping her. She was hooked from the beginning.

“I wouldn’t put it down," Kiley said. "I would play with it at the dinner table."

After learning the violin, she taught herself piano, but says, modestly: “I’m not a piano genius.”

She subsequently learned to play the viola and cello fluently, according to her mom, Tina, who calls her “an outstanding musician.”

Mrs. Martha Diaz, her first music teacher in grades 4 and 5, said, “With most kids, their parents have to bug them to practice. Kiley’s mom would do the opposite — she would have to tell Kiley to stop practicing and take a break. She likes a challenge, and she would work really hard to accomplish a musical goal and strive to achieve other goals. You don’t encounter a student like that all the time. She’s definitely a standout.”

C.J. Hooker had a recent three-day workshop called Electrify Your Strings, which began with a concert by professional musicians, according to Mrs. Diaz. Kiley won a solo completion and got to play electric violin alongside rock and roll musician Bridgid Bibbens.

Kiley has a room in her house where she practices music daily for an hour to an hour and a half, spread throughout the day. But even great young musicians must put up with the indignities of daily life. Occasionally older sister Stephanie will yell out “Close the door!”

Kiley said she has improved by trying a more difficult piece every week and trying out new techniques to help her play better.

Her sister and her parents, Tina and Greg Rowe, are very supportive. Kiley’s passion and dedication to music is unique in her family. Mom Tina said she played the flute, but never touched it after high school graduation.

A range of influences

Kiley has had many influences, including professional violinist Lindsey Stirling; her former music tutor, Katie DePalma; and especially her school and private teachers, Mrs. Kristen Calohan, orchestra, and Mr. Casey Hulick, chorus teacher, at C.J. Hooker; Mrs. Martha Diaz, with whom she started at Goshen Intermediate School, and Mrs. Theresa Gao, her private teacher in Monroe. Kiley also takes private lessons with Diaz.

During the summer, Kiley played with the Jimmy Sturr Orchestra. She learned and played two songs in particular: “The Devil went down to Georgia,” and “Orange Blossom Special.” Every time they had a gig in the Tri-state area, Kiley would join them, usually driven by her parents. The motion of the tour bus was not particularly attractive, Kiley admitted.

“One time I went in the tour bus, it was actually nauseating,": she said.

Someday Kiley would like to be in a famous orchestra or become an orchestra conductor, like her teachers at school.

Kiley’s parents are amazed by their daughter. Mom Tina recalled chorus advisor Casey Hulick’s words: “He always said, ‘She’ll go to Carnegie Hall.’”

Hulick often asks Kiley to play solo with the chorus when they perform. He told The Chronicle, “Kiley Rowe is a highly dedicated, talented and skillful violinist. She is truly outstanding for her age. I am so pleased for her current success and I’m sure that we will all be hearing great things from and about her amazing abilities in years to come.”

The New York State School Music Association (NYSSMA) has six levels of proficiency. Last year Kiley performed at level 5 and received a score of 94. This May 30, she will try for level 6 on viola and violin. She was also Junior High All-county first violin (concert master), unusual for someone her age.

Kiley has other interests, too. She loves volleyball and her animals: two cats, a guinea pig and a fish. She hopes to play professionally and is “thinking a bit about Julliard music school."

“I really hope she always has the passion that she does because she’s just wonderful," Tina said. We’re so proud of her — we really are.”

Kiley and the others selected for the Carnegie Hall Middle School Honors program will perform on June 28. If you can’t catch her then, you can hear her perform at the at the C.J. Hooker Orchestra Spring Concert on Wednesday May 14 at 7 p.m. or at The Orange County Music Educators Association concert at Goshen High School in July.

The time for the Carnegie Hall performance has yet be announced. Tickets will be available 60 days in advance of the June 28 performance at Carnegie Hall.

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