Student Spotlight: Musical Prodigy

Nicole Duffy, Guest Writer

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Madison High is fortunate enough to have a number of talented musicians. However, few are as talented as Ashley Brill. At the age of only 16 years old, Ashley Brill is an accomplished musician,  proficient in seven instruments and four unique clefs. At age three, her family recognized her talent for music when they realized that she could not walk past the piano without trying to play a few notes.

At age five, Ashley began taking piano lessons and her teacher was immediately struck by the potential she had shown, noting that is was more than any of her previous students. At Ashley’s first piano recital, when she was only 6 years old, she played a simplified version of Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy” while other kids played “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star” or “Hot Crossed Buns”. Marie Piechnik, junior at MHS, recounted a time from music class in fourth grade, when their teacher, would allow each student to opportunity to try their hand at the piano. For some students, it was not their first time at the piano, and they impressed their classmates with “Mary Had A Little Lamb” or “Happy Birthday”. Others, would play a random combination of notes.  When it was Ashley’s turn, she played Bach, from memory. For Ashley, this was just a regular practice, nothing to give an extra thought to. Her classmates felt differently. They were in absolute awe.

Ashley’s talent has only grown since then. Recently, I asked Ashley why she enjoys playing piano. In response, she reminisced about her late grandfather and how when he was on hospice care, she would play for him. She says that every time she plays she thinks of him and that’s why she enjoys it so much.

In third grade, Ashley’s mother pushed her to the violin, wanting her to see if she could learn a second instrument as quickly as she learned the piano.  By the next year, Ashley was so proficient in violin, she was selected for All-City Orchestra, an honor mostly given to fifth and sixth graders.  Ashley’s talent soon became a game for her family. In sixth grade, they challenged her to master the ukulele and the viola, simultaneously.  By seventh grade, Ashley had auditioned, and been accepted, to the prestigious New Jersey Youth Symphony Orchestra for viola.

The following year, Ashley became interested in another instrument; the guitar. Ashley’s elder brother, Matthew, agreed to teach her one of her favorite Beatles songs, “Rocky Raccoon” and she immediately began to teach herself more songs.

The following year Ashley taught herself the electric bass. Now, in her junior year, Ashley plays viola in the school orchestra and is also a member of the MHS Dectet. The Dectet is made up of nine of MHS’ most talented orchestra students, who play together. For fun,  Ashley plays her other five instruments in various groups and organizations. For example, she travels with the Madison Senior Outreach Program to Brighton Gardens and plays the piano for them. The seniors call out songs from their youth that they want to hear. Naturally, Ashley has never heard of them, so she will quickly look them up, look at their chords, and dazzle the seniors with songs that bring them back to their youth.   This has also become a game for the Brill family. Any song they like on the radio, they’ll ask Ashley to figure out on guitar or piano, and she usually does so just by listening. Ashley’s newest challenge is the cello, and she hopes to master it within the year and then move on to the harp. She has already begun learning how to read both instruments’ unique sheet music and is excited to put it into action. Although Ashley does not plan on pursuing a career in music, she dreams of playing in the orchestra of at least one Broadway show after college.

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One Response to “Student Spotlight: Musical Prodigy”

  1. Aileen Bergin on November 14th, 2016 8:59 pm


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Student Spotlight: Musical Prodigy