STERLING – Hours of practice have paid off for Kevin Lemus.

Lemus, 17, of Sterling, will perform the first movement of Francis Poulenc’s “Flute Sonata” during a Clinton Symphony Orchestra concert at 7:30 p.m. Feb. 15 at Morrison High School.

Lemus is the orchestra’s recipient of its 2020 Young Artists Award.

He found time to master his craft while being president of Sterling High School’s Latino Club and involved with National Honor Society, the Young Doctor’s League and a program that helps underclassmen – and all while maintaining a 4.0 grade point average.

Center stage in Morrison will feel quite like the Duis Center diving board for the Sterling senior. Lemus also is diving captain of the school’s swimming team.

He uses deep breaths to help concentrate for important dives during meets, and will utilize that same method while performing a challenging song with his trusty flute.

“Diving helps me cope with the nervousness that I have for this,” Lemus said. “I have to take a deep breath, look around me and see the crowd, my teammates, and just go for it and lose any doubts.”

Lemus has spent about 8 hours a week for nearly a year fine-tuning his performance of Poulenc’s number, originally titled “Sonate pour flûte et piano,” written in 1957 and first performed by world-renown flautist Jean-Pierre Rampal in Strasbourg, France. All of that practice now has paid off with the orchestra’s award, given to the best performer in a youth showcase.

“I practiced a lot, and this award shows how far I’ve gone in my music career,” Lemus said. “It means a lot to see how far I’ve progressed.”

He began paying the flute in fifth grade, inspired by beatbox musicians who played in a more rapid blowing style.

“I always thought that was cool, and I had to try it. The flute is versatile. It may seem like a high-playing instrument that might sound squeaky all of the time, but it has quite a wide range. It’s easy to play pretty things, and it’s cool to play hard-sounding things.”

He takes music very seriously, he said, taking private lessons for 2 years with Nicole Oberg, wife of high school orchestra teacher Erik Oberg.

“Since it was my passion, I just loved doing it,” Lemus said. “I would never check the time when I was doing it.”

He did an even deeper dive into the flute during his junior year, when he acquired a new instrument.

Lemus also is a member of the Sterling Municipal Band, and he has spent a lot of time helping his SHS bandmates, often being the first one to enter Brendon O’Donnell’s band room and the last to leave.

O’Donnell admires his worth ethic.

“If there is something that is bothering him, he works at it, works at it, and works at it until it’s what he expects, what he wants and what he deems is appropriate for the music,” O’Donnell said. “He’s in here more than anybody in the band, coming in and working extra on things, asking for advice, and helping other students, too.”

The concert will feature works from Ludwig Von Beethoven, whose birth was 250 years ago, including his “Symphony No. 7” and “Wellington’s Victory,” which celebrates a battle during the Napoleonic Era.

Orchestra conductor Brian Dollinger is looking forward to working with Lemus.

“Each year the Clinton Symphony Orchestra holds this wonderful youth competition, eager to showcase young talented music students from our region,” Dollinger said. “We’ve had a number of wonderful surprises through the past 13 years that I’ve been the music director for the orchestra.

“I haven’t worked with Kevin before, but I have heard wonderful things from the judges who heard his audition.”

The flute sonata has an up-tempo beginning and increases as the song progresses. Until his performance, Lemus will work on projecting his sound louder to fill the Morrison High auditorium, which is more resonant for singing, he said.

“At first glance, you’ll look at the music and it seems relatively simple,” Lemus said. “A musician’s ability to influence it in musicality is what makes the piece shine.

“It kind of sounds weird, but it’s cool to transform it and make it sound like music, when it probably wasn’t intended to.”

Come listen

Sterling High School senior Kevin Lemus will perform Francis Poulenc’s “Flute Sonata” at the Clinton Symphony Orchestra concert at 7:30 p.m. Feb. 15 at the Morrison High School auditorium, 643 Genesee Ave.

The orchestra also will play works by Beethoven.

Admission is $20, or $10 for adults who attend with a student. Students are admitted for free.

Go to clintonsymphony.com to for advance tickets or more information.

For more local news, visit SaukValley.com at https://www.saukvalley.com.

Whiteside County