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Music makes her world go around

by Merrie Leininger

It’s been said that music has a powerful effect on people.

Douglas High School junior Rachael Gero, 16, will tell you that’s certainly true for her.

Rachael plays in the school’s orchestra, jazz band, concert band, marching band and pep band. Outside of school, she takes piano and viola lessons.

“I have no life,” Rachael jokes.

But in fact, music is her life. And it changed her life when she was a little girl with failing grades who came to this school district in the 6th grade. Her parents are divorced and she moved with her mom, Gloria Gero and sister Rebecah Gero-Wiegardt, now 13, from South Lake Tahoe.

“I had horrible grades. The second I started playing – well, I guess it gave me something else to do – it just clicked. I used to flunk math and science. In the 6th grade, I picked up the clarinet. Ever since then, I do great,” she said.

Rachael is now in AP history and AP biology and taking honors English.

When she’s not practicing or studying, Rachael attends Calvary Chapel and helps her mom with the business she runs out of her home, SewGeroux Gourmet Cooking Co.

But she didn’t stick with the clarinet. While at Carson Valley Middle School, her band instructor convinced her to switch to tuba.

Tuba?

“I love it. I love deep, dark sounds,” she said. “I’m a tuba chick. I love it because it’s so powerful, so deep and beautiful. I love the shock on people’s faces when they see a girl playing the tuba.”

In the 8th grade, she started piano lessons and joined the honor society. She now takes piano lessons from Dr. Bob Ruppel.

“I’m not spectacular. I get a lot of enjoyment out of playing (piano). I love showing off in front of guests and it makes my mom happy that I can play when people come over,” she said.

In the 9th grade, Rachael picked up the viola for the first time.

“I’ve had straight As ever since. It just goes to show, music is good for education,”she said. “It’s becoming one of my primary instruments. It’s not screechy, like violins. It’s so beautiful. It’s got a really huge tone and sound. I feel so much better performing as a viola player than a pianist.”

In addition, she started playing string bass six months ago with the jazz band.

Why fill up so much of her time with practicing so many instruments?

“It’s the only thing I’ve been really good at. I love being able to play at recitals and see the response. It gives me such a high. It’s helped me a lot and I just love to do it. Sometimes, I feel overloaded, but I just do the best I can,” she said.

This week she did the best she could at state solo and ensemble competition in Reno playing viola against people who had been playing all their lives and who play every day with their school bands. DHS doesn’t have a viola program and Rachael trains with John and Nelle O’Neill at the Carson Valley Violin School.

This summer, she will compete in a scholarship program, Miss Junior America, as Miss East Gardnerville. She doesn’t know what teacher nominated her for the program.

“Whoever it is, thank you,” she said.”It’s based mostly on grades. I will go to the state competition and represent Gardnerville if I can get enough donations to pay for the entrance fee. They base it mostly on interviews and critique your speaking ability, and I will also be playing the viola. There’s no bathing suit competition or anything like that.”

She must also have a “platform” for the competition and perform community service based on that position.

Rachael has chosen promoting music programs in the schools.

“I can see the effects already of not having a (full-time) music program in the elementary schools. We are losing 36 members in band next year, which will move us (in competitions) from medium-sized bands to small. Also, the musicianship is less. I was brought up in the elementary schools’ program and it makes me mad,” she said.

Rachael said she feels the school district has “turned their backs on us,” and will be speaking to parent groups and the school board as part of her community service project.

“There is interest, but parents have to say ‘We want it,’ and get their kids involved in other programs now,” she said. “I’ve heard this from teachers, too. It is very frustrating.”

She is also circulating a petition to present to the school board that will ask for an increase in the music programs in the elementary and middle schools.

“Hopefully, they’ll listen because there’s plenty of money for an elementary band and teachers want it. The community loves the band. What they’re doing will kill the high school band,” she said.

Through her viola teachers, Rachael will be performing with other string players at the elementary schools to encourage interest in music.

“I want to tell them it’s fun and cool and a great opportunity. And hopefully, it will help,” she said.