Every time Fiona Shonik plays the trumpet she thinks of her grandfather, who passed away in 2012 just a day before her first big concert—North Shore School District’s Band Festival. Her grandfather had played the trumpet as a boy and although Shonik was only in fourth grade when he died and had just been playing for a year, he used to ask her if she had learned skills far beyond her study.
“It felt like a sign,” Shonik said of the timing of her grandfather’s passing, “that he was giving me his talents and inspiring me to love the trumpet even more than I already had.”
Now a senior at North Shore High School, Shonik is a top tier trumpet player. She was selected as one of only six students to represent New York State in the National Association for Music Education’s (NAfME) 2019 All-National Honor Ensembles (ANHE) Concert Band. Other ANHE groups include mixed choir, jazz ensemble, guitar ensemble, modern band and symphony orchestra.
The concert band was made up of 120 gifted high school musicians across the country and based on her audition, Shonik was chosen as the principal trumpet player. Rehearsals and culminating concerts took place on Nov. 7-10 at the Gaylord Palms Resort and Convention Center in Orlando, FL. Jodie Larson, Sea Cliff Elementary School’s band director and one of Shonik’s first teachers, chaperoned Shonik on the trip.
The accomplishment is “a reflection of Fiona’s hard work, dedication, perseverance and the stellar music education that she has received from the North Shore music program,” Larson said. “I am incredibly proud of her.”
Attending the conference with Larson, meeting and playing with musicians at All-Nationals, the top honor for a high school musician, was a “full circle” moment for Shonik.
“Ms. Larson or ‘Aunt JoJo’ as she asked me to call her on the trip has been my number one supporter from day one, and she is always reminding me to strive to be my very best self, in regards to playing and in general,” said Shonik. “Having a strong female role model has been a crucial part of my growth as a person and musician, and I’m so grateful that Ms. Larson has been there for me since the beginning.”
Female trumpet players are not very common, as the majority of brass instruments are male dominated. Shonik attributes being in the minority as a reason for her personal growth.
Many ANHE participants are also members of the Tri-M Music Honor Society, which is the only national honor society for student musicians. Shonik is the Vice President of North Shore’s Tri-M chapter.
Shonik said that at All-Nationals, students were scheduled to rehearse for a total of 14 hours over the four days. But they played closer to 17 hours, arriving early to each rehearsal to warm up and practice their own parts, which is not surprising.
“Students selected to perform with the All-National Honor Ensembles are the most musically talented high school students in the United States,” said Dalia Rodriguez, North Shore School District’s director of fine and performing arts. “Fiona Shonik is an exceptional musician.”
A disciplined and passionate musician like Shonik practices not for duration but for quality. She says playing trumpet is the one thing that makes her happier than anything else.
When asked why she wanted to take part in All-Nationals, Shonik joked that it would be hard to pass up the opportunity to be in 85-degree weather in November.
“NAfME’s goal of promoting music education is something that I stand right behind, and hearing world-class speakers and musicians at the conference who also advocate for the spread of music education in schools was extremely motivating,” explained Shonik. “Music is something that will always unite people, regardless of race, ethnicity, religion or political beliefs.”
Shonik thinks her grandfather would have been very proud.