• Wickliffe Simmons
  • Holy Innocents’ Episcopal School, junior
Wickliffe Simmons

When he was younger, Wick Simmons wanted to play viola. Luckily, his parents had a different idea.

“My parents wanted me to play cello because it would save their ears from the high squeaks and shrieks that the viola or violin would make as a beginner,” Wick wrote in an email recently.

Sometimes, parents know what they’re talking about.

“I kind of fell in love with it,” he said.

It took a while. At age 9, Wick was playing a ¾-sized cello instead of a full-sized one. He hated putting in the hours of practice the instrument demanded. “But when I was in sixth grade, I was asked to play in the high school orchestra, which was a big deal to me at that time,” he wrote. “The music was much harder, and a lot more fun to play, and I loved it. It gave me something to do and I got to meet people that were older than me. I guess that was when I really began playing nonstop.”

Now 17, Wick is winning attention for his mastery of the cello. He placed second at the Georgia Philharmonic Concerto Competition in December. Last summer, he participated in the Bowdoin International Music Festival in Maine.

“It has taken me to a world of all sorts of interesting people from all over the world,” he wrote in the email.

This summer, Wick attended the Heifetz International Music Institute in New Hampshire, a rigorous six-week program for a select group of advanced violin, viola and cello students. The program is designed to help talented students learn to perform and to help them become better performers.

“It teaches you how to be confident on stage and how to work on stage,” Wick said. “And we have lessons with some of the greatest teachers in the world.”

At the summer institute, Wick could study with teachers from some of the best music schools and conservatories in the world: the Juilliard School, the Royal Academy of Music, the Eastman School of Music and the Peabody Institute.

The program offered more than simply music classes. Participants were coached on how to relate to an audience as performers. “They have a class where you get to learn how to open yourself up in performing,” he said. “And they talk about public speaking—how to talk to the audience before you play for them.”

And, for Wick, training is essential. He hopes to play cello professionally some day, and believes the key to mastering a musical instrument is to combine a love of playing music with hard work.

“Fall in love with it, then practice, practice, practice,” Wick said.

What’s Next:

Wick still has two years left in high school, but he hopes in the future to continue his cello studies at a school such as Juilliard or the Eastman School of Music.

–Mikayla Farr