Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Weeki Wachee student to play at Carnegie Hall

Weeki Wachee High’s Lauren Ballard stands with her contrabass clarinet, which is so big that it has a 6-foot carrying case.

PAULETTE LASH RITCHIE | Special to the Times

Weeki Wachee High’s Lauren Ballard stands with her contrabass clarinet, which is so big that it has a 6-foot carrying case.

WEEKI WACHEE — One of the instruments 16-year-old Lauren Ballard plays is bigger than she is, but that's not the one she hopes to carry to a special performance in New York City.

"Lauren was accepted into the American High School Honors Band at Carnegie Hall," said proud mother Carol Ballard, a musician herself. "She is one of two bass clarinets that will be there."

Besides the bass clarinet, the Weeki Wachee High School junior plays the electric bass guitar and the giant contrabass clarinet. It's so big, her mother said, its carrying case is about 6 feet long.

Lauren said she was invited to apply to American High School Honors Band after being part of the University of Florida Honor Band as a freshman, the University of Miami Honor Band as a sophomore and also participating in All-State Band.

"October 31, 10:08 (a.m.) we were notified that I got into it," Lauren said.

She knows that, she said, because she remembers her mother screaming into the room to announce it.

Lauren's selection is all the more remarkable because practice is difficult for her. She suffers from juvenile rheumatoid arthritis, and prolonged practice can become very painful for her.

"When I'm playing for long periods of time, my hands swell up and it gets difficult to do the fast runs in the music," she said. "I usually ignore it and keep playing because I like it."

Lauren travels to Shriners Hospitals for Children in Chicago for treatment twice a year. Her mother said Lauren gets excellent treatment there.

Lauren's musical career officially began just before middle school.

"I started the regular B-flat clarinet the summer before sixth grade," she said. "Ever since I was little, I wanted to be in a band because of the shakos (marching band hats)."

When she was in seventh grade, Wayne Raymond, the West Hernando Middle School band director at the time, lent Lauren a bass clarinet.

"I like lower-pitched things," she said. "I thought it sounded prettier."

In ninth grade, she was introduced to the contrabass.

"Mr. (Mike) Miller (former Weeki Wachee High band director) came in and asked if I wanted a new toy," Lauren said.

He brought it in; she tried it out.

"It sounds cool," she said.

Currently, she plays the electric bass guitar in her school's marching band — sadly with no shako — and the jazz band, and the clarinet in the concert band, under the direction of Trevor Rigby.

Right now, Lauren's biggest obstacle is raising the money she will need for the trip to New York in February. Her mother, a teacher, figures it will cost about $2,500. She welcomes donations and is also considering ideas for fundraising.

Carol and Lauren Ballard both play with the Hernando Symphony Orchestra, Lauren being a brand new member. The other family member is Lauren's younger sister, eighth-grader Kristen Ballard, who sings in the chorus at Powell Middle School. The girls' father, Kevin Ballard, is deceased.

. Fast facts

How to help

Anyone wishing to help Lauren Ballard get to New York may call Lauren Blackwell at Weeki Wachee High at (352) 797-7029, ext. 410.

Weeki Wachee student to play at Carnegie Hall 12/19/12 [Last modified: Wednesday, December 19, 2012 8:41pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Judge tosses life sentences for D.C. sniper Lee Boyd Malvo

    Nation

    McLEAN, Va. — A federal judge on Friday tossed out two life sentences for one of Virginia's most notorious criminals, sniper Lee Boyd Malvo, and ordered Virginia courts to hold new sentencing hearings.

    A federal judge has tossed out two life sentences for D.C. sniper shooter Lee Boyd Malvo. [Associated Press, 2004]
  2. Zbigniew Brzezinski, President Carter's national security adviser, dies

    News

    Zbigniew Brzezinski, the hawkish strategic theorist who was national security adviser to President Jimmy Carter in the tumultuous years of the Iran hostage crisis and the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in the late 1970s, died on Friday at a hospital in Virginia. He was 89.

    Zbigniew Brzezinski, former national security adviser to President Jimmy Carter, participates in Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on Capitol Hill on March 5, 2009, in Washington, D.C. [Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images]
  3. USF eliminated by UCF in AAC baseball; Florida, FSU, Miami win

    Colleges

    CLEARWATER — Roughly 16 hours after a ninth-inning collapse against East Carolina in the American Athletic Conference's double-elimination baseball tournament, USF returned to Spectrum Field presumably set for a reboot.

    It simply got booted instead.

    ’NOLES win: Tyler Holton gets a hug from Drew Carlton after his strong eight innings help Florida State beat Louisville.
  4. Pinellas licensing board executive director settled hundreds of cases without getting his board's approval

    Local Government

    By Mark Puente

    Times Staff Writer

    Eleanor Morrison complained to the Pinellas licensing board in 2015 that her contractor installed crooked walls and windows and poured too much concrete for her carport.

    Eleanor Morrison poses at her home in Treasure Island, 5/26/17. Morrison filed a complaint with the Pinellas County Construction Licensing Board and later learned that its former Executive Director, Rodney Fischer, dismissed the case in a private meeting with the contractor.
  5. Report: Kusher wanted secret communications channel with Kremlin

    World

    Jared Kushner and Russia's ambassador to Washington discussed the possibility of setting up a secret and secure communications channel between Donald Trump's transition team and the Kremlin, using Russian diplomatic facilities in an apparent move to shield their pre-inauguration discussions from monitoring, U.S. …

    The name of Jared Kushner, President Donald Trump's White House senior adviser, has come up as part of the Russia investigation. [Associated Press]