MARQUETTE - If you go to a Marquette Senior High School symphony orchestra concert, you'll probably see Nikky Vermeulen playing cello.
If you see the school's fiddle club, she'll be in that. And the Marquette Symphony Orchestra? She's in that, too.
The 17-year old senior at MSHS has been playing the cello since the sixth grade and doesn't show signs of stopping.
A senior at Marquette Senior High School, Nikky Vermeulen, 17, has been playing cello since the sixth grade. She now performs in MSHS ensembles like the symphony orchestra and fiddle club, as well as the Marquette Symphony Orchestra and a string quartet. (Journal photo by Johanna Boyle)
"Everyone was playing the violin and I wanted to be different," Vermeulen said.
That decision has worked out pretty well for her. She sits first-chair cello in the MSHS orchestra the top position for the section - and is getting experience playing with professional musicians with the MSO.
"I practice a lot, pretty much every day," she said.
"Everyone was playing the violin and I wanted to be different."
- Nikky Vermeulen, 17, Marquette Senior High School
Moving from middle school orchestra to the high school program meant harder - and more fun - music, which she said encouraged her to keep playing.
Playing with MSO for a year has allowed her to expand even further, not that the audition to get in wasn't nerve-wracking.
"It was really scary," she said. "I played two different solo pieces and I had to sight-read."
Sight-reading is when a musician has to perform a piece without having seen it or practiced it before.
"The expectations are a lot different," Vermeulen said of playing with MSO, where she's the only high school student in her section. "They give you the music ahead of time and you have a week to perfect everything."
While playing with different and more experienced groups offers the fun of music, it also brings a new set of expectations.
"Not only does the music get harder, but you have to learn it faster," Vermeulen said. "You have to work with a lot of different people."
A different experience still is playing with the school's fiddle club, which gives most of the melodies to the fiddle players, leaving the cello to fill in more of a rhythm or guitar part.
"It's really relaxed. You can improvise a lot," she said. "I just follow the chords and do what I want."
In addition to the fiddle club, Vermeulen also spends time playing with a string quartet from MSHS, a smaller ensemble that also plays throughout the community for events, even weddings that they occasionally get paid for.
"I met a lot of new people and it opened a lot of doors for me," Vermeulen said of the quartet. "I can do what I love and get paid for it."
When she's not doing her own practicing or rehearsing, Vermeulen teaches lessons to a handful of seventh- and eighth-grade students.
"They're all really good students," she said. "We're working on their school music and some new skills. They're all very motivated."
Besides helping new students learn more, Vermeulen said teaching the lessons also helped her own playing.
"I've noticed it's really helped me," she said. "I know what I have to do, but I don't always remember it."
As a senior, Vermeulen said she is also looking ahead to college, potentially Grand Valley State University where she has been accepted.
"I want to go into their honors college," she said, adding she was considering a minor in music. "I always want music to be a part of my life."
Johanna Boyle can be reached at 906-486-4401. Her e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.