And Now, Back to Reality: Newark High School Violinist Steps Out On Her Own


Damn you Internet. For the second time in two days, you've brought me a video that makes me want to cry. Yesterday it was Susan Boyle, the Scottish woman who looked like a lamb to the slaughter on Britain's Got Talent, but whose gorgeous voice poleaxed Simon Cowell and restored my faith that sometimes good things do happen to people who deserve them.

Today it's the Newark (Ohio) High School Sinfonia, particularly its first violin and concertmaster Tiffany Clay, featured in Dan Barry's New York Times column This Land. Only this story reminded me of the way things usually are.

  • The New York Times

Newark is a town in central Ohio that has been hit particularly hard by the recession. It's lost most of its industry (the Owens Corning fiberglass plant, formerly its biggest employer, has cut staff in half), and the effects have trickled down to the town's high-school students. Newark High School has the third-highest dropout rate in the state.

Most of the Sinfonia's musicians play borrowed instruments, perform in borrowed tuxes and gowns and have had a hell of a time scraping up the $850 for a bus trip to New York to participate in a national high-school orchestra competition at Lincoln Center.

Clay is 18. She is a gifted musician and a top student. She didn't get along with her parents and last year, moved out on her own. She pays the rent by working 35 to 40 hours a week as a carhop at a Sonic Drive-In. In the fall she plans to enroll in a two-year nursing program at a community college in Newark and continue to play the violin in her spare time.

She tells Barry it's more practical than her original dream of going to a four-year college and becoming a music teacher: "Everybody gets sick."

Is there any way to help the Tiffany Clays of the world, to turn them into Susan Boyles?

Watch the video so you can hear the Sinfonia's rendition of Tchaikovsky's "'Serenade For Strings."

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