Senior Kendrick Kirby-Lee performing at the Orchestra Masquerade Concert on October 24. PHOTO/Len Brown

A Day in the Life of musician Kendrick Kirby-Lee

November 20, 2017

Senior Kendrick Kirby-Lee performing at the Orchestra Masquerade Concert on October 24. PHOTO/Len Brown

For most of his life, senior Kendrick Kirby-Lee has kept a low profile. As a student, he’s very humble, down-to-earth and has a quiet presence in the halls and classrooms. Despite his seemingly normal life, the spotlight shines on Kirby-Lee in the music world.

Most students that partake in the band, orchestra or chorus at WHS have heard of senior Kendrick Kirby-Lee, a three-time All-State, and Nationally acclaimed violinist. But how many of you really know the details of this avid musician’s daily life?

Throughout Kirby-Lee’s 18-hour day, one-third of that time is spent on music-related activities. This amount of time is unmatched by any other musician that the Director of Music Christopher Memoli has seen throughout his 20 years of teaching at Weston Public Schools.

Kendrick is the most musical student that has ever come to WHS,” Memoli said. “His sophistication both in playing and musicality is extraordinary.”

In addition to being the concertmaster of the Chamber Orchestra at WHS and the Rivers Youth Symphony Orchestra, Kirby-Lee participates in both music theory and composition classes.

During the school day, Kirby-Lee takes two music electives: Chamber Orchestra and AP Music Theory. In Music Theory, he learns about the different types of scales, some of which he didn’t know existed prior to that class.

“Being a composer, the theory will give him a better understanding of how some of the most famous composers, like Johann Sebastian Bach, wrote their music,” AP Music Theory teacher Steven Fulginiti said. “I believe that his work in theory will supplement his understanding of harmony and counterpoint.”

Fulginiti commented on the incredible composition Kirby-Lee has worked on, incorporating techniques learned upon in the AP Music Theory Class.

Despite his reserved personality, Kirby-Lee’s compositions are full of life and sophistication, reflecting all of his accomplishments as a musician according to Fulginiti.

“Listening to one of his pieces, “Old World Symphony,” I’ve seen that he has a creative mind and possess a talent for writing music,” Fulginiti said.

After school on a typical Wednesday, Kirby-Lee’s afternoon is filled with, to no one’s surprise, the joyous sounds of music.

Since May of last year, Kirby-Lee has been teaching eighth grader Dora Yang violin for two hours after school every Wednesday.

Teaching a young student his passion shines new light on his musical career, Kirby-Lee said.

“It is fun because I can assign any piece I want because I am the teacher! It is also beneficial to teach because I have to think more about how to practice, learn, and communicate this to the student!” he said, excitedly.

Though it is already 5 o’clock in the afternoon, his musical hat stays firmly on top of his head. As a musician, his day has just begun and most of his classical playing and composition occurs in the evening.

At 5:30 pm, Kirby-Lee has a composition lesson at the Rivers School Conservatory, where he has been studying and composing music for the last eight years. This is the highlight of his day as his teacher’s lecture is never the same.

“We go over my composition I worked on during the week, and then my composition teacher goes off on a tangent about the structure of Beethoven Symphonies and a lot of pieces I have never heard before,” Kirby-Lee said.

Earlier this month, The Rivers Youth Symphony performed the world premiere of Kendrick Kirby-Lee’s piece the “Old World Symphony” for its first concert on November 5.

“It’s rare for the composer to be the concertmaster,” conductor Memoli said. But Kirby-Lee has done it all.

Both the audience and performers enjoyed Kirby-Lee’s piece immensely. Tunes from various folk songs were incorporated throughout the piece, giving familiar melodies a new twist.

“The piece was very interesting. He used a variety of orchestral instruments and compositional techniques to create a sophisticated symphonic sound,” Memoli said.

Additionally, Kirby-Lee’s original composition “Wind and Water” was selected to be performed at the Young Composer Concert at the Eastern Division Conference in April of 2017.  Competing against a variety of students from middle schoolers to graduate students, Kirby-Lee achieved a distinct honor both as a violinist and composer.

His musical passion has traveled with him from school to the conservatory and back to home, coming full circle.

While other students would be studying or sleeping by 10:30, Kirby-Lee is working on his overdue SmartMusic assignment and practicing the violin.  

“After I finish practicing, I am straight, as usual, away into bed,” Kirby-Lee said.

However, it’s not just talent that has gotten Kirby-Lee to where he is today. His hard work and dedication is unmatched by any musician Memoli has ever seen at WHS. Kirby-Lee’s talent stands the testament of time.

Through his incredible musicianship, Kirby-Lee has inspired other students in Chamber Orchestra to continue to foster their budding passion for music.

“Being his stand partner this year has led me to realize just how much I still can grow as a musician since he has such unbelievable technical and musical abilities,” junior Emily Kim said. “Although he isn’t the most talkative, his playing speaks for itself.”

Violinist sophomore Joanne Lee said she looks up to Kirby-Lee because of his musical talents and friendly charisma.

“He’s one of those people you feel like you’ll talk about when you grow up, like, ‘Hey, I knew Kendrick Kirby-Lee because I went to high school with him!” Lee said.  “He’s on a totally different level compared to everyone else, but he’s also just a normal human being.”

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