Morgan Thomas balances school work and his love for music, taking Advanced Placement courses and practicing his cello up to eight hours a day.
Earlier this month, his hard work paid off. The Barren County High School junior was named All-State Orchestra No. 1 principle cellist during a special ceremony, which was followed by a concert, in Louisville.
Earning the honor “feels pretty good,” he said. “It’s definitely a big accomplishment.”
Thomas auditioned for all-state orchestra, performing selections such as Tchaikovsky’s “Symphony No. 4” and Moussorgsky’s “Pictures at an Exhibition.”
“I practiced those over several months, I guess, and took lessons with my teacher, and also with various other professors at different universities,” he said.
Thomas competed against 20 other cellists from across the state for the seat.
“I am very proud of him, because he earned it. It just wasn’t one of those titles that is given away just because we think he is talented,” said Amberly Bush, orchestra director at BCHS. “Because of his playing, he was given that No. 1 spot. I’m very pleased he worked hard and made that happen.”
His mother, Selest Thomas, was overcome with joy for her son.
“I cried,” she said. “I was just really proud. I was excited for him.”
Morgan Thomas told his mother that he wasn’t sure he would get the No. 1 seat, but she told him she was confident he could do it.
“I told him, ‘Morgan, I’m not surprised that you got first chair,’ “ she said. “I was really excited and happy for him. I felt it was (time) for him to be chosen for that.”
Throughout Morgan Thomas’ life, his mother exposed him to music – beginning before he was even born. The Thomas home is often filled with music, typically classical.
Morgan began taking piano lessons at the urging of his grandmother and studied that instrument for 13 years.
“When they started a strings program at the middle school, I decided I wanted to learn another instrument,” he said.
He began to play the bass but switched to the cello because the musical notation is similar to the piano. “They read the same clef,” Thomas said. “With cello you only read one clef, and with piano you read two.”
Morgan continues to practice regularly with the piano, but said he doesn’t do it as often as he practices cello.
“I like how I can get my own interpretation of the music with the cello, and just kind of pour my emotions into the music. You can kind of take control of the audience with the cello, I feel. It’s really kind of magical.”
In addition to playing with his high school’s orchestra, Morgan is also a member of the Bowling Green-Western Symphony Orchestra and attends practices with that group twice a week.
His mother said he manages to get most of his homework done while still at school, freeing up time after school to practice.
Morgan has also written original music, mostly for first string orchestra, but has yet to perform anything he has written. He hopes to do so in the future, he said.
Morgan performed Tuesday at an event celebrating a new Fine Arts Capstone partnership between the Barren County Schools and Western Kentucky University that allows high school students to receive dual credit for fine arts classes taken in high school.
He traveled to China with the Bowling Green-Western Symphony Orchestra in 2013.
Until Tuesday night, WKU President Gary Ransdell “thought (Morgan) was a WKU student instead of a high school student,” said BCHS Principal Steve Riley. “That gives you an idea of the level of his maturity and his talent, that someone would see him and hear him play and think he was a college student. ...
“He’s a bright young man. I think he makes the cello talk.”
Morgan is already thinking about what he wants to do after high school. Selest Thomas, a registered nurse, wants him to go to college – and so does he – but he’s conflicted on what he will study.
“I would like to double major in music, in either music and medicine, or either medicine and chemistry,” he said.
He aspires to be a doctor one day, and he’d also like to study music performance and eventually teach at a university.
Morgan hopes to land several scholarships to help pay for college. Friends, family and others have helped him financially along the way and continue to do so.
He will audition for the Governor’s School for the Arts in March, which could lead to scholarship opportunities.
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