Senior soloist Payton performs Vivaldi Feb. 9

Marquis Payton [photo: Nancy Rich-Drehs]

On Feb. 8 and Feb. 9, Cleveland Heights High School (CHHS) will present two Instrumental Music Department (IMD) concerts. Both will begin at 7 p.m. and take place in the school’s auditorium.

The performance on Thursday, Feb. 8, will feature Concert Band, Symphonic Band, Jazz Ensemble and Symphonic Winds.

The concert on Friday, Feb. 9, will feature Monticello and Roxboro Middle School Eighth Grade Orchestra students alongside the Concert Orchestra, Philharmonic Strings, Heights High Symphony, and senior soloist Marquis Payton performing Vivaldi’s G Major Concerto for Violin and Orchestra.

Payton began playing violin in fifth grade at Oxford Elementary School. He continued playing at Monticello Middle School and credits his Monticello classmate Nathaniel Tisch, also a senior soloist, for his ongoing interest in music performance. In high school, Payton joined the non-audition Concert Orchestra before advancing to the middle-level orchestra, Philharmonic Strings. He then moved on to the Heights High Symphony, the school’s highest-level orchestra.

Over the years, Daniel Heim, Heights High’s director of orchestras, has observed Payton’s strong leadership and his commitment to improving as a player. “What's amazing about Marquis is how quickly he learns things because he just has a work ethic that is like hardly anybody I've ever seen,” Heim commented.

Payton regularly participates in Heights High’s chamber music program, has worked as a counselor in the Reaching Heights Summer Music Camp, and performed in the school’s pit orchestra in last fall’s performances of “Sister Act.” 

In his junior year, Payton received a scholarship for private instruction and began working with Stewart Pharis, an accomplished violinist and violist who volunteers for CHHS music programs. The two regularly meet during lunch periods and after school, balancing lessons with Payton’s track participation.

At CHHS, Payton is a 400-meter sprinter and pole vaulter; he took first place in pole vaulting at a recent Lake Erie League Championship.

Last summer, Pharis suggested Payton learn Vivaldi’s G Major Concerto for his senior solo audition. In the audition, Payton played all three movements of the concerto and recalled that, after he finished playing, he was surprised to hear applause from the judges. “I wasn't paying attention to anything except for what I was playing,” said Payton. “I kind of forgot they were there.”

Payton will play the entire concerto on Feb. 9. Considered the “father of the concerto,” Antonio Vivaldi (1678-1741) wrote more than 500 concertos, with approximately 230 for violin. Payton will also perform at the district’s middle schools as part of outreach offered by Heights IMD students.  

After graduation, Payton plans to attend Cleveland State University and major in biology with a minor in music. He wants to become a physical therapist, but keep playing violin. “I feel like it’s just part of me at this point,” he explained.

Asked about his experience in the IMD, Payton said, “I really like the people here, because there are a lot of people that are passionate about playing and you can hear it.” 

He thanks Pharis for his guidance, Heim for seeing his potential, fellow senior soloist Sophie Muller for encouraging him to play well, Tisch for sparking his interest, the entire orchestra for his experience with the ensemble, and his parents for their support and for always wanting to hear him play.

Eve McPherson

Eve McPherson is professor of music at Kent State University at Trumbull and co-president of the Heights Band and Orchestra Parent Organization.

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Volume 17, Issue 2, Posted 1:16 PM, 01.30.2024