The Ashland Beacon
Olivia Connolly, a graduating senior from Paul Blazer High School, is this year’s recipient of the Don Payne Memorial Music Scholarship. The scholarship was created to honor the life of former Boyd County band director, Don Payne, and is open to any senior in Boyd or Greenup County who plans to “major in music education or performance.”
Connolly started playing both the violin and the French horn in middle school. She said that it “immediately took over my entire life” and she quit dancing and playing softball “because I loved [music] so much.” She said that from middle school all the way through her senior year, playing one instrument or the other is “all I spent my time doing-other than my homework.”
Connolly, a self-proclaimed “perfectionist” who is “really picky about how I sound,” has been given a spot on both the All District Band and the All District Orchestra three years in a row. She said that she has earned First Chair Violin for the past two years in the All District Orchestra and this year, she earned First Chair French Horn in the All District Band. She also plays violin in the Marshall University Symphony Orchestra “which has been the most fun I’ve ever had.” Connolly has been playing with the orchestra since the winter of her sophomore years and says that “it’s so awesome to hear both the strings and the band come together.”
As part of the Marshall University Symphony Orchestra, Connolly said that she got to be part of the premier of an entire symphony and “it was one of the coolest things I’ve ever done in my life.” She explained that the premier was for a composer who had never been published so she got to be a part of the first modern premier of her music.
Although Connolly excels at both of her chosen instruments, this year she took on the extra challenge of joining the high school Jazz Band and attempted to learn how to play the trumpet. She said that it did not really work out for her so she switched over to a jazz instrument called the fluegelhorn which she says is bigger than a trumpet with a different tone and she “loved playing that.”
The French horn is kind of a tradition in Connolly’s family. Both her mother and grandmother play the French horn. Her younger sister will be breaking that tradition at the middle school this year. While she is following in her older sister’s footsteps and learning to play the violin, she has chosen the saxophone as her second instrument.
Connolly is going to Eastern Kentucky University this fall and pursue a major in music education. She plans to major in the French horn more than the violin but she says that “by the end of college, I’m going to be certified to teach either.” She said that her dream is to be able to teach both instruments.
When she added the money from the Don Payne Memorial Scholarship to the money she had already received from a scholarship of music at EKU and her merit scholarship, Connolly said that “it pushed me to the very edge” and now she does not have much tuition left to pay.
Connolly is so grateful because now she is going to be able to go at least her first year of school “with no loans and no debt.”