Tuesday, April 24, 2018
Education

Springstead graduate — and her violin — set to move on to Harvard

SPRING HILL — Nina Morales pulled her violin from its zip-up case and propped it under her chin. It was the violin that went with her and the rest of the National Youth Orchestra to Russia, the violin she practiced with an hour every day at Springstead High School, the violin she played on audition tapes sent to colleges across the country.

This fall, the same violin will travel with her for her first year at Harvard University.

Nina, 17, will graduate with more than 1,000 Hernando County seniors over the next week and move on to jobs or more schooling. For her, post-high school plans have always included two things: college and music.

She applied to about a dozen schools, including prestigious names such as Yale, Duke and Harvard. She thought they might be out of her reach. But on a windy day at the end of March, she woke up from a nap to an email from Harvard. Not only did she get in, but the school offered her a full scholarship.

"I had to read it like five times," she said in an interview Monday. "It was crazy. I wanted to jump up and down, and I think I cried a little with my mom."

Her mother, Fe, smiled, remembering the day. After Nina's father, Jonathan, was laid off from his job at the Southwest Florida Water Management District, her parents were unsure of how they would afford to send her to college.

"You don't know the joy. We're so grateful," Fe Morales said. "Any possibility is laid out for her."

Nina's application included the numbers — an unweighted 4.5 grade point average and 14 Advance Placement classes during her time at Springstead. But in the essays, she wrote about her other passion: playing violin.

She started at age 5, taking lessons on a violin a fraction of the size of her current one. When she felt confident enough to play for an audience, she brought her violin to Grace Presbyterian Church in Spring Hill, where she honed her performance skills.

In high school, she joined Springstead's orchestra, led by Richard Dasher. In his 25 years of teaching, Dasher says, he's never taught a student as accomplished as Nina. "She was first chair from the first day she came in freshman year," he said.

Dasher encouraged her to apply for the National Youth Orchestra of the United States of America, a summer program sponsored by Carnegie Hall in New York City.

She applied and was accepted last year. She spent the summer traveling to Washington, D.C., and London, as well as St. Petersburg and Moscow in Russia. The group played some of the most difficult orchestral music available, Dasher said, including Tchaikovsky's Violin Concerto in D Major.

He remembers watching a video of the orchestra performing and seeing Nina.

"She was just nailing it," he said. "You just watch her for a moment and you're really aware that this is something special."

Springstead principal Susan Duval had a similar experience watching Nina play at a school concert. She was a freshman at the time, and Duval's only interaction with her had occurred when Duval worked as a crossing guard and would see Nina cross the street after her parents dropped her off. Even then, she could tell Nina was outgoing and mature, an "old soul," she said.

"She just caught my eye being this bouncing, bubbly, smiling young lady," Duval said. "She just sparkles."

At Harvard, Nina said, she wants to join musical ensembles and take lessons. She said she doesn't want to pursue music as a career because of the industry's instability. Instead, she intends to major in biology and pursue oncology.

But she's not too attached to that plan. "I'll take as many diverse classes as I can just to see what else is out there. I just want to try everything."

On Monday, her mother watched as Nina played the first few notes of Ashokan Farewell, a waltz used in Ken Burns' PBS documentary The Civil War.

She leaned in and out of the notes, her hand moving back and forth to create vibrato as her fingers curled over the strings. A half-smile formed on her lips.

For the moment, Harvard could wait.

Kathryn Varn can be reached at [email protected] or (352) 754-6114. Follow @kathrynvarn on Twitter.

Comments
Sarasota student under fire over his racist ‘promposal’

Sarasota student under fire over his racist ‘promposal’

The Sarasota County School District has begun to address the community after a Riverview High School student’s racist prom proposal over the weekend went viral, including reaching out to the Sarasota chapter of the NAACP.High school senior Noah Crowl...
Updated: 2 hours ago

Battle continues over west Pasco school rezoning

Jim Stanley does not give up without a fight.The west Pasco County parent who brought down the school district’s 2017 attendance zone revisions, leading the administration to change its procedures along the way, has filed a new challenge to the syst...
Published: 04/24/18
Crews Lake eighth-grader already capable musician

Crews Lake eighth-grader already capable musician

SPRING HILL — Rose Dodd, 2 months old, couldn’t yet grasp a rattle, but there she was years ago at hand-bell choir practice at Keystone United Methodist Church in Odessa.Rose, 14, a Crews Lakes Middle School eighth-grader, is back at hand-bell practi...
Published: 04/24/18
Hillsborough: No way we can afford teacher raises this year

Hillsborough: No way we can afford teacher raises this year

TAMPA — The Hillsborough County School District is in bad financial shape and its reputation for sound management is perhaps undeserved, the district’s own fiscal team testified Monday in a hearing concerning teacher salaries.The district "made finan...
Published: 04/23/18

School news for April 27

School Calendar• May 17-20: High school graduations• May 25: Last day of school for studentsBriefs• School Safety Town Hall Meetings will be held from 6 to 8 p.m. May 2 at River Ridge Middle/High, 11646 Town Center Road, New Port Richey and 6 to 8 p....
Published: 04/23/18
A Florida school shooting suspect charged with terrorism says ‘sorry’ to injured student

A Florida school shooting suspect charged with terrorism says ‘sorry’ to injured student

The young man in a white jail jumpsuit, handcuffed and shackled, looked past the throng of reporters pointing microphones toward his face, barely opening his mouth as he answered questions."I shot through the door," he said, looking at a female repor...
Published: 04/21/18
After months, no action on Hillsborough’s substitute teacher problem

After months, no action on Hillsborough’s substitute teacher problem

TAMPA — Confronted in late 2017 with reports of misconduct by substitute teachers hired through a contractor, Hillsborough County school superintendent Jeff Eakins said he would ask tough questions and demand answers. He had his lawyer, Jeff Gibson, ...
Published: 04/21/18
Tampa Bay students voice opinions on gun laws during school walkouts

Tampa Bay students voice opinions on gun laws during school walkouts

Nicole Leary and Taylor Redington stood outside St. Petersburg High School on Friday morning with parents and protesters who had gathered with bullhorns and signs. In a few minutes they would lead about 70 students on a walk to City Hall, joining oth...
Published: 04/20/18
Official: Shotgun in guitar case was used in school shooting

Official: Shotgun in guitar case was used in school shooting

FORT LAUDERDALE — A gunman who carried a shotgun in a guitar case opened fire Friday in a Florida high school, wounding one student before he was arrested on a day planned for a national classroom walkout to protest gun violence, authorities said. It...
Published: 04/20/18
Eakins: New ‘achievement zone’ would lift struggling schools

Eakins: New ‘achievement zone’ would lift struggling schools

TAMPA — Hillsborough County school superintendent Jeff Eakins is preparing to reorganize his cabinet — for the third time since 2015 — in an effort to coordinate programs at the district’s highest-needs schools.In an interview this week, Eakins descr...
Published: 04/20/18