The French horn wasn't Priscilla Rinehart's first pick.
She was thinking percussion. Or maybe even the trumpet.
"It wasn't like I really wanted to play it," said Rinehart, 18. "It was kind of chosen for me and I went with it."
It turns out that Chad Guess, her band teacher at Seminole Middle School, made the right decision.
After graduating from Seminole High School this month, Rinehart will attend the Juilliard School this fall on a full scholarship. Her instrument of choice at the prestigious New York music school will be the French horn that Guess persuaded her to play.
"The first time she picked it up, she made the most beautiful sound," Guess said. "It was the perfect French horn pitch. When I heard that, I definitely encouraged her to play the French horn."
Rinehart's mother couldn't be more pleased, even though her only child will be leaving her for New York.
"I'm happy for her and glad she has this opportunity," said Debby Rinehart. "I was a trumpet player but I love the French horn. It's a beautiful instrument."
Halfway through her sophomore year, while participating in the Bands of America National Honor Orchestra, Priscilla Rinehart realized the elegant snail-shaped instrument would be a part of her life forever.
"That's when I was like, this is what I want to do the rest of my life," Rinehart said. "You have that eye-opening moment, and it kept happening over and over. It was just me and the music and that was my moment."
It has been a rewarding partnership.
Rinehart received the 2008 Beverly Lauring Award by the Patel Conservatory Youth Orchestra. She competed in the Florida Orchestra Young Artist Competition for three years and has been a member of the Florida All-State Band and All-State Orchestra. This year, she was first chair for French horn with the All-State Band.
"It's a weird feeling because I've never been that star player," Rinehart said. "Being first chair at All-State was the biggest thing. I knew I had a potential but it taught me to go in expecting nothing and whatever you get, you feel pretty grateful."
Rinehart said she sees herself becoming much like her private instructor, Carolyn Wahl, who plays for an orchestra while teaching young musicians.
"I know the horn inside and out and I know the capability I have," Rinehart said. "The boundless area for improvement is what keeps me going. I will always have something to strive for and that's a really cool thing."
Demorris A. Lee can be reached at 445-4174 or firstname.lastname@example.org
On the Cover: Priscilla Rinehart performs during her recital at Anona United Methodist Church in Largo.