Between the notes

High school student enjoys making music

High school student enjoys making music

April 07, 2006|by TIFFANY ARNOLD

HAGERSTOWN - At times, the best option is getting up at 4 a.m. to do schoolwork.

"I have to if I want time to practice," said Justin Furnia, a 17-year-old violinist and pianist.

In order to have time to play the instruments after school, Justin said he often has no choice but to finish his schoolwork early in the morning.

But Justin said he welcomed two diversions from his crammed schedule: the moment the bow touches the strings on his violin and the second his fingers strike the piano keys.

"Music allows me to have that kind of emotional release," Justin said. "It kind of helps me through the tough times, gives me a reason to go on."


Those "tough times," Justin said, were dealing with the pressures of school and finding time to do what he loves.

Justin, a junior, is the first-chair violinist in North Hagerstown High School's orchestra. He's also an accomplished pianist, slowly gaining attention within the local music community.

In addition to music, Justin maintains a grade-point average above 4 on a 4-point scale. Orchestra is the only class he has that isn't honors or Advanced Placement. He said he normally spends two to three hours a night studying - not including the times he has to get up early.

"Sometimes you just can't do it all," said Justin's piano teacher, Noel Lester.

Lester, chair of Hood College's music department, said Justin's ability to manage his time was part of what makes him stand out as a musician.

"Some kids come to lessons and want to be patted on the back and be told they are doing well, but they aren't willing to put in the work," Lester said. "(Justin) understands that. It's not about sitting at the piano and wiggling your fingers."

Lester said Justin will go to concerts just to examine another performer's style.

"He has an impeccable understanding of different composers," Lester said. "He is intrinsically musical."

Lester was among several instructors and mentors who Justin credited for his own musical growth.

Justin said he most enjoys playing the piano, an instrument he started learning when he was 10 years old. Justin said he didn't pick up the violin until his freshman year at North High, but he wished he could have started sooner.

"I love the lush, romantic sound," said Justin, comparing the violin with the piano. "You can certainly play with more passion. The bow gives it a breathing quality. It can be done on piano, but it takes practice."

The piano is Justin's first love, and he hopes to be a concert pianist and music teacher.

"The experience with piano makes you much less nervous," Justin said. "To play the violin you have to be accurate, you have to hit every note. It's harder."

Justin said balancing school with music is his hardest challenge. This year was the first time he had ever received a grade lower than an 'A.'

He said he got a 'C' in an AP English course.

"I'm trying to be calm about it," Justin said, noting that the subject was subjective and that he was better in math.

"I'm always trying to balance out homework and practicing, and sometimes I'm not successful with that," Justin said.

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