SM East sophomore Akshay Dinakar was a bit frazzled that February afternoon. It was 7th hour, the end of the school day, and he’d just finished a challenging chemistry exam.
“My mind was all about chemistry and the formulas I’d been using,” he said. “That’s all I was thinking about.”
But when a text message from SM East principal Karl Krawitz popped up on his chemistry neighbor’s cell phone, fretting about formulas quickly took a back seat.
“She was on the newspaper staff, and she said, ‘Akshay, you made the National Youth Orchestra!'” Dinakar recalls. “I went out to the front drive where my dad was picking me up. He had this funny, kind of evil grin on his face — I knew he’d called Dr. Krawitz and told him the news.”
And exciting news it was. The talented 16 year old violinist will be one of just 120 young musicians to take part in Carnegie Hall’s Weill Music Institute National Youth Orchestra. Dinakar will travel to Purchase, New York, in late June where he and the other orchestra members will spend two weeks practicing together before an international tour that will take them to Moscow, St. Petersburg and London.
Dinakar, who has been playing violin since he was 3, submitted an audition video for the program last year that included two required pieces of music — and one discretionary selection.
“I chose a piece by Shostakovich,” he said. “We think one of the judges was a Shostakovich fan.”
But lest you think Dinakar lives and breaths violin only, think again. He’s a point guard on the sophomore basketball team. He says he thinks he wants to be an architect — not a professional violinist — when he grows up. And he practices the violin less than an hour most days.
“I’ve found it’s not necessarily how long you practice, but how hard you practice,” he said. “If you really focus, you can get a lot out of a relatively short period.”
Whatever he’s doing, it works. See for yourself. Here he is last year playing at an SM East pep assembly:
And here he is cutting loose at Bobby Watson’s UMKC Jazz Camp (he’s featured starting around 4:00):
A big congrats to Ashkay and his family on a great honor.