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Guilderland Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, April 19, 2012

Flute in hand
Emily Schlierer takes on the world
By Melissa Hale-Spencer

BOSTON — Saturday night, a thousand people filled the seats at the ornate Jordan Hall, which the Boston Globe reported on its opening in 1903 was “a place of entertainment that European musicians who were present that evening say excels in beauty anything of the kind they ever saw.”

The stage on Saturday was filled with high school students from across the country who had auditioned to play in the Xibus World Orchestra.

One of them was flutist Emily Schlierer from Guilderland High School.

The evening included performances by Glee! vocalist Jeanette Olsson, from Sweden, and by the Grammy-winning Turtle Island Quartet from the San Francisco Bay Area.

The Xibus World Orchestra played a number of original compositions. Among them was “Polaris,” by the Colombian composer Nelson Navarrete. In the midst of the piece, Schlierer said, “I had a 14-measure improv solo.”

She pulled it off with aplomb.

“He shook my hand afterward and said I did a really good job,” said Schlierer of Navarrete. “My mom cried.”

Journey of note

It had been a long journey for Schlierer to get to the stage of Jordan Hall.

She was born into a musical family. Her mother, Vicki, is a songwriter and singer with the folk group 2 Late; she also plays the guitar. Her father, Rik, plays the drums. “Although Vicki tells me that’s not music,” he says with a smile.

Emily Schlierer started playing the piano when she was in kindergarten. On Sundays, at St. Boniface Church, she’d listen to the flutist, Jeremy Bouteillier, and yearn to play the way he did.

When she reached the fourth grade at Lynnwood Elementary School, she knew which instrument she’d choose — the flute.

She was taught by music teacher Dan Cordell. “If it weren’t for Mr. Cordell, she wouldn’t be doing what she is today,” said her father.

Emily Schlierer also credits her current teacher, Norman Thibodeau of Schenectady, from whom she takes private lessons.

She plays flute now with the Guilderland High School Wind Ensemble and piano with the Jazz Ensemble. As someone who likes to give back, besides working at a soup kitchen, Schlierer has now taken on the position at St. Boniface Church that once inspired her to play the flute.

Earlier this school year, the Boston String Quartet came to Guilderland High School. The quartet — with violinists Christopher Vuk and Angel Valchinov, violist Chen Lin, and cellist Christina Stripling — melds classical tradition with contemporary music. Stressing music education, the quartet has developed The Ethno-Urban Orchestra as well as The Xibus World Orchestra.

Schlierer was part of The Ethno-Urban Orchestra and played at the Troy Music Hall. “They told us about the World Orchestra,” she said, and she was determined to audition.

With the help of her parents and Michael Short, her mother’s singing partner, whom she calls “Uncle Mike,” Schlierer made a video audition tape, playing several different pieces, which she submitted to the Xibus World Orchestra.

About a month-and-a-half ago, she got an e-mail, telling her she had been accepted to the orchestra. “Oh, my gosh, I was so excited,” said Schlierer. “My parents took me out to dinner to celebrate.”

She had only about a week to practice the music she would need to know. Then last Wednesday, she took a bus to Boston. Like the other students, she stayed with a musical host family.

Schlierer rehearsed for 12 hours on Thursday with students who had come from across the country. “The oboist who sat next to me was from Virginia,” she said. “There were kids from Georgia, and Florida, and Tennessee.”

The next day, Friday, the group recorded a compact disc. One of the original compositions was by Lanny Meyers, who has won six Grammy Awards. A friend of David Brubeck, Meyers wrote “Brubeckiana,” which, Schlierer said, features variations on Brubeck’s “Blue Rondo a la Turk.”

The Xibus World Orchestra recording will be released internationally by Naxos Records and on a National Public Television special.

Schlierer became close to the other five students in the wind section — the oboist, two on clarinets, one on bassoon, and one on bass trombone — as they toured Boston together while the string section recorded. She’s now friends with them on Facebook and plans to stay in touch.

Saturday brought “another huge rehearsal” before the start of the 7:30 performance.

What’s next?

In the fall, Schlierer will attend the University at Albany. “They gave me a Presidential Scholarship — basically a full ride,” she said. Schlierer notes that the criminal justice program at UAlbany is recognized as one of the top in the country and she plans a double major, in criminal justice and psychology, with a minor in music.

Schlierer said she has always wanted a career in criminal justice and would like to work for the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Schlierer was in second grade when the terrorists attacked the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001. “My parents said Sept. 11 is the first time I talked about it,” she said of a career in criminal justice. “They told me I said I wanted to stop bad people from doing bad things.”

Schlierer has taken a psychology course at the high school and found it fascinating. She plans to weave the two together. “The FBI has criminal profilers,” she said. “They look at statistics to narrow down suspect lists.”

She conceded, “It’s a high-level job. It will take a long time to get there.”

Although she won’t pursue music as a career, Schlierer says it will always be an important part of her life.

“To me,” she said, “music is an escape; it’s stress free and fun.”

She practices every day for at least an hour and sometimes two. But she does it because it’s fun.

“I’m afraid, if I make music into something I have to depend on for my livelihood, it won’t be fun anymore,” she said.

She plans to participate in orchestras and continue to perform. “I want to keep it special,” she said.

One of the things Schlierer came away with from her Xibus World Orchestra experience was a sense of admiration grounded in reality for world-renowned performers and composers. She got an autograph from singer Ryland Angel, and described him as “a sweet man.”

She admired the patience and humor of Colombian composer Navarrete. “He understood we weren’t professional musicians, that we were in high school. He was patient with us,” she said.

And, she went on, “He was very funny.”

She gave this example. “On the bus ride back to our host families, he talked to me about what I would study in college. When I told him about wanting to work for the FBI and still study music, he said that was a weird combination. He asked if I would interrogate criminals by playing a loud note in their ear until they’d tell the truth.”

Schlierer laughed at the memory.

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