Inspired by annual concert, teen to perform with Symphoria youth orchestra
ROME — With a passion for learning and appreciation for classical music, one local 13-year-old is on his way to becoming a cello virtuoso.
James “Jimmy” Cooper, age 13, will be a seventh-grader at Strough Middle School in the fall — around the same time he will begin rehearsals with the prestigious Symphoria Youth Repertory Orchestra in Syracuse, where he will perform with a group of accomplished musicians who are as old as 18.
Cooper’s attraction to the cello and his desire to play came from attending Honor America Days concerts at Fort Stanwix National Monument each summer — featuring Syracuse’s Symphoria — with his dad, Jim, and mom, Michelle, who encouraged his exposure to classical music.
Jimmy shared that his parents introduced him to his instrument by taking him to several other classical music concerts as well, specifically the Two Cellos, Red Violin and also the Syracuse Symphoria.
Jimmy said he was excited to actually start playing the cello once he entered fifth grade, but with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, in-person classroom lessons went virtual. Despite having to watch his orchestra teacher, Tracie Cook, on a computer monitor, the youth continued learning and developing his skills as his love for the cello continued to grow.
“At the same time everything was shut down during the pandemic...I initially took virtual lessons from my orchestra teacher during that time,” the 13-year-old said. “Once sixth grade began, in-person learning did as well. After a year of playing the cello and discovering a real love for it, my parents engaged a private instructor who is also a professional cellist, to provide regular virtual lessons. In addition, I also continued to receive weekly in-person lessons from my orchestra teacher.”
The student progressed quickly — so well, in fact, that his private teacher, Lars Kirvan, a cellist with the Chautauqua Symphony Orchestra and Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra, encouraged him to join Symphoria so he could continue to be challenged and “grow with my instrument.”
“I was already familiar with the Syracuse Symphoria from attending many Honor America Days concerts in Rome that featured this wonderfully-talented group,” said Jimmy.
It was about two weeks ago that Jimmy auditioned for the Symphoria Youth Repertory Orchestra in Syracuse and recently he received his congratulatory letter in the mail, said his dad James Cooper. Symphoria Youth Repertory Orchestra is a full orchestra, with three performances, and is open to students up to the age of 18.
Performing with an orchestra is as professional a musician can get, especially one who’s just 13, but Jimmy said he has other interests to pursue as well. For example, he’s currently attending a microbiology DNA camp down in Long Island. Last year, he was also the winner of the Delta Omega Sorority Rome Character Initiative Award.
“One day I may pursue music professionally since it’s a passion of mine, but I also have other interests such as mathematics, entrepreneurship and science,” he said. “I’m looking forward to exploring all of these areas in the future.”
Jimmy said he’s also become a mentor for a Coding Club at school, and became a mentor to students just beginning to play in orchestra.
“During spring break, I attended a virtual Entrepreneur Camp created by Shark Tank host Daymond John, which helped me understand how to create business models and a marketing campaign for future companies I would be interested in starting,” he shared. “Currently, I am attending a microbiology DNA camp on Long Island. I also enjoy playing baseball.”
In addition to his regular school studies, Jimmy also said he spends at least 2-3 hours a day practicing his cello — seven days a week — dedicating hard work and long hours toward mastering his craft. Despite his age, Jimmy said he appreciates the “gifts” that music gives him. He even has some favorite composers, including Edward Elgar, Joseph Haydn and Johann Sebastian Bach.
“Beautiful music inspires me and brings out the best in me as a person,” Jimmy reflected. “It has a therapeutic quality about it. It’s calming and the cello feels like an extension of myself.”
And it is through his music, that Jimmy said he enjoys connecting with other people.
“I feel that playing an instrument is important because music connects you with other people and it’s a unique way for me to express my emotions,” he said. “I get a sense of great satisfaction from the effect my playing has on other people. My family often has an emotional response to pieces I play. Music is a universal language everyone can relate to and understand.”
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