As high school careers go, Stephen Farrell's was different than the ordinary. Attending one high school, yet playing trombone in another school's Wind Ensemble and marching band kept him running back and forth and constantly switching gears, but the multi-faceted student was up for the challenge. Exceptional in the classroom, Farrell also is an accomplished musician who recently won the college- level division at the annual Northwest Florida Symphony Orchestra Concerto Competition.
Following in the footsteps of his two older sisters, Farrell came to Northwest Florida State College's Collegiate High School in his sophomore year and quickly came to appreciate its "small school" atmosphere. "CHS's biggest asset is its faculty," Farrell explained. "They genuinely care about the goals and successes of all their students and are attentive to their individual learning needs." A small high school located on NWF State College's Niceville Campus, the Collegiate High School doesn't field a band, so to keep his trombone performance up to speed, Farrell played in Niceville High School's Wind Ensemble and the Eagle Pride Marching Band.
Balancing his CHS course load with required attendance at all ensemble and band rehearsals and performances was a challenge but, "the CHS faculty and staff were very supportive and were willing to be flexible with requirements that interfered with practices," he explained. As a really good trombonist performing with a really good high school ensemble and marching band, Farrell not only experienced the perks of traveling to all football games in support of the team, but also saw his share of competitions. As an Eagle, he performed before the Florida Bandmasters Association District and State Music Performance Assessments and also competed at the New York Wind Band Festival at Carnegie Hall with the school's Wind Ensemble in the spring of 2010. A trombonist since 6th grade, Farrell also has experienced his share of solo competitions and has been recognized at many. In 2012, he was named runner-up in the International Trombone Festival Gilberto Gagliardi Solo Competition and this year was named first alternate for the International Trombone Festival Lewis Van Haney Philharmonic Prize.
One thing Farrell knows for sure is that excellent musicians don't get there by themselves. "I've had many great teachers over the course of my musical development," he said, "but Dr. Jeremy Ribando and Ms. Lois Van Dam, NWF State College faculty, provided me with something far more valuable than the nuts and bolts of playing my instrument. In a time when I really needed it, both Dr. Ribando and Ms. Van Dam, neither of whom play the trombone, provided me with much-needed musical inspiration and a desire to get better and communicate for the sake of the music."
Currently a student pursuing a Bachelor of Music in trombone performance at Baylor University in Waco, Texas, Farrell's goal is to pursue a master's degree and, ultimately, to perform as a trombonist with a major orchestra. With his sights set on the goal before him, Farrell has chosen to follow the advice of Dr. J. Eric Wilson, Conductor of the Baylor University Wind Ensemble, who said, "we are going to work like crazy, we are going to have a lot of short nights, we are going to work tirelessly for perfection. It will be hard, but I promise you, it WILL be worth it."