Clifton Park

Class of 2021: Shenendehowa’s Crowley headed to Eastman School of Music

John Crowley of Shenendehowa High School
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John Crowley of Shenendehowa High School

Music has always been at the forefront of John Crowley’s life.

“I was two or three when my parents told me that I was messing around with the piano’s keys,” he said. “But I didn’t start lessons until I was seven or eight. Later, I got interested in strings. My sister played violin but I liked the rich, powerful sounds of the cello and bass. I didn’t want a big instrument. . .so I chose the viola. It’s the perfect blend.”

Now he’s graduating from Shenendehowa High School and headed to the Eastman School of Music in Rochester as a viola performance major. This comes after years of participating in numerous Capital Region ensembles and developing a work ethic that informed all his other school subjects. Although his mother sang during his high school years, he credits his grandmother, who played piano, with inspiring him to pursue music more seriously than as a hobby.

In seventh or eighth grade, he began playing in the All-County orchestra and some higher level groups.

“I’ve always gotten good grades but [with music] I liked the challenge of stretching my limits and reaching for something more difficult,” Crowley said.

“Then a friend who also liked music told me something that I never knew — that I could be a music major in college. I liked performing and liked the possibility of broadening the audience’s horizons.”

So Crowley began to practice at least an hour a day and by high school added more hours to his regimen even as he filled his school days with chamber ensembles. All this time spent on his instrument taught him “patience and focusing on details and honing in on those details to improve.” He found these skills worked in math, and in ensembles, especially in “the interaction to collaboratively build a destination as to what everyone wants. It’s about leadership skills and compromise. Music is a great teacher.”

The discipline resulted in good grades as well as inspiration to form a string quartet and trio. He began to also explore new kinds of music and repertoire, which led him to start a group dedicated to the music of jazz great Django Reinhardt.

“That’s been really, really fun,” Crowley said. “I’ve been having fun with music. I listened to lots of recordings. It’s a great genre. The [music] theory is also different. It would be cool to take jazz or comp classes at Eastman.”

Besides also performing in All-State, All-National orchestras, and the Saratoga Springs Youth Orchestra, Crowley played for a year with Empire State Youth Orchestra. In 2019 he participated in the Orchestra Studies Program at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center to study with members of the Philadelphia Orchestra and then spent the next year focused on auditions and applied to five music schools. These included the Eastman School of Music, the Manhattan School of Music, Cleveland Institute of Music, the New England Conservatory of Music and the Juilliard School.

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While waiting to see if he’d be accepted somewhere, he found time to do community service.

“I like helping those in need. It’s an especially important part of the community when people are struggling,” he said.

In Boy Scouts, he helped at regional food banks. More recently, he’s volunteered at Albany soup kitchens as a waiter and at his church, St. Edward the Confessor, in Clifton Park.

Now that Crowley knows he’s headed to Eastman, he’s practicing for a student recital set for June 12 of some of his favorite viola pieces that will show off his skills. It will be one of many he’ll give over the next few years.

“I’m really excited to go to Eastman and look forward to the viola teacher I’ll be studying with,” Crowley said. “I dream of playing with an orchestra or with a string quartet, especially to play with those who share the same kind of passion as mine.”

More Class of 2021: Profiles of region’s top graduates

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