Exhibiting both a talent for his craft and a dedication to be the best, a South Brunswick High School student achieved yet another prestigious honor for the school's renowned music department.
SBHS junior Joseph Burke was recently selected to perform with the 2013 National Association for Music Education's All-Eastern Honors Orchestra. Joseph, a viola player, joins with the most talented musicians from around the eastern region, consisting of 11 states and Washington DC, for the honor.
"I auditioned in December last year for regionals and from there was allowed to try out for the states competition," Joseph said. "I sent in my scores and (NAfME) chose from there. I felt really good about it. For awhile I didn't know if I would make it, but (SBHS Orchestra Director Dr. Arvin Gopal) told me I made it and it felt great."
The NAfME All-Eastern Ensemble consists of concert band, symphony orchestra, mixed chorus, treble voice chorus, and jazz ensemble. Dr. Gopal said Joseph is the first string player from SBHS to earn the honor.
"We're just extremely proud of him," Gopal said. "We have a large orchestra program and to have one student rise not only within the school and region, but also throughout the state to be recognized at this level is a really big honor. We're proud for Joe and the district.
"When you think about South Brunswick music, people usually think of the South Brunswick Marching Band and (Directors Mark and Ginny Kraft), and rightfully so. But this is an opportunity for us to say we also have talented students in the orchestra program, so it's great for Joe and the whole program."
Joseph began playing music in the second grade and continued playing with school orchestras throughout his time in the district. He also plays with the Philadelphia Youth Orchestra, among other outside musical ventures. But achieving an honor as high as Joseph has is no easy task, requiring an exhaustive schedule.
"A normal week for me is waking up to practice at 5:30 a.m. until about 6:10 a.m.," Joseph said. "I go to school, come back home, do homework and practice for about two more hours. On weekends I'm in Philadelphia practicing from about 8:30 a.m. to noon, then have lunch and practice from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. Then on Sunday I'm with my teacher for a three-hour practice."
Joseph said his strict practice regimen has aided him in becoming more organized, while instilling the discipline to work hard in order to achieve whatever goal he sets for himself.
"I met Joe when he was in the eighth grade and I could see he was musically talented just by the way he was playing in an ensemble, which is not something you can say about too many eighth graders," Gopal said. "The way he responds is something you don't see very often and it's very unique. It's been a real pleasure to have a musician of his caliber in my group and it helps everybody in the ensemble."
The 2013 NAfME All-Eastern Ensemble will perform for a crowd of thousands in April in Hartford, Conn., as Joseph prepares to take his place among the best of the best from all over the east coast.
"I'm really excited to meet people there, feed off of them and learn new things from my peers," he said. "You can learn even more from everything they've been through and relating to them. I'm going to have a lot of fun with it."