Young, Gifted & Black Series
By Taki S. Raton
As Concertmaster from Atlanta’s famed Woodward Academy, his name last year topped the 32nd number listing in the 1st Violin section of the Georgia Music Association’s 2012 All-State Middle School Orchestra in Savannah, Georgia. Sitting to the director’s left and closest to the audience, the Concertmaster is featured as the most skilled musician in the section.
He is young, gifted and Black. Andrew Koonce, as noted by Maria Lloyd in the February 8, 2013 BizNet- News posting, that while great numbers of teens of his age and ethnicity “are emulating the actions of hip-hop artists and athletes who engage in risky behaviors,” this now 15 year-old is honing his craft as a skilled virtuoso violinist.
For well over a year, according to his Facebook bio, Andrew has been a violin student of Sonya Foster out of Atlanta. A Julliard School of Music and Curtis Institute of Music alumnus, Foster specializes in teaching the most serious and gifted violinist. Under her tutelage, he has progressed from the early works in violin to the advanced violin concerti, performing several times a year in recitals.
For the last two consecutive years, he has had the honor of being accepted into the Atlanta Symphony Youth Orchestra. Established in 1974, the Atlanta Symphony Youth Orchestra provides Atlanta’s most talented and dedicated students an outlet to perform master works. Each year, as cited on their web page, more than three hundred instrumentalists, ages 13-18, audition for one of the 120 seats in the orchestra.
From 2009 to 2011, Andrew was principal second and assistant concertmaster of the Metropolitan Youth Symphony Orchestra (MYSO). The MYSO seeks to promote talented orchestral musicians by providing the opportunity to perform repertoire of a wide variety of styles and historical periods. The objective is to cultivate musical excellence.
In 2010 to 2011, he won the Festival Disney Best Concert Artist Award. He additionally during this period attended the University of Georgia Summer Music Institute and was concertmaster of the ASTA Summer Music Camp.
Earlier as an 8th grader, Andrew received the Maestro Award for his violin solo during the Middle School Orchestra Performance at the Heritage Music Festival in Orlando, Florida. Andrew’s solo was ranked First Place of all other solos.
While classical music and developing as a violinist is a great love of Andrew, his expanded involvement reflects a variety of interest. He is currently a Fernbank Museum volunteer, an avid coin collector and a youth member of the Civil Air Patrol. His subject interest at Woodward is science and politics.
Woodward Academy is the largest independent day school in the continental United States offering a fullrange of college preparatory instructional tracks to students in pre-kindergarten through grade 12 on two campuses in Atlanta.
As reported by Lloyd, his goal in life is “to get better.” He reveres Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. as his hero because, as cited in Lloyd, King “opened doors to make it possible for him and other African Americans to achieve their goals.”
This young master musician also holds violinist Itzhak Pearlman as a role model revealing in BizNetNews that “he has incredible skill despite having a physical disability acquired from contracting polio at the age of four.”
Lloyd’s conversation with Andrew in her words reinforced “the reward of good parenting.” She adds that, “I have no doubt in my mind that Andrew Koonce will be a globally respected name in the classical music sector.” When asked what words of encouragement he has for troubled African American youth in his age group, Andrew simply replied, “Get involved in something.”