To say Williamsport Symphony Youth Orchestra violinist Leah Nason is busy flirts dangerously with understatement.
The Loyalsock High School student is the sophomore class president and a member of Key Club. She plays the clarinet in the school's marching band and is also learning to drive. She's also the WSYO concertmaster.
Nason has played the violin for eleven years and performed with the WSYO since the fifth grade. From that young start, she worked her way up from the back of the section to the place she holds now at the front of the orchestra.
"Playing the violin is my unique way of speaking," Nason said. "Every musician has a different voice. A hundred people could play the same piece, but it would never sound exactly the same. I play simply because I love music as a whole - I love the tunes, I love performing and I love the satisfaction you get after mastering a piece."
But initially, Nason's interest in the violin came as a surprise. Her parents, she says, are not musical - though her mother loves Bruce Springsteen.
Growing, up "I didn't listen to Mozart or anything like that, I listened to Springsteen, the Beatles," Nason said. "Out of nowhere, when I was four, I said 'I want to play the violin!' "
Nason isn't sure if her initial inspiration was "Sesame Street," the Strolling Strings or her half-sister, whose concerts Nason's family would attend at Williamsport High School. But whatever led her to the violin inspired a commitment to music that has lasted to the present day.
Like her fellow WSYO violinist Walker Konkle, Nason studies with David Lassiter and has literally grown up under his tutelage, having studied with the Williamsport Symphony Orchestra violinist since she was five.
Violin has been a fixture in her life since then. Nason said she typically practices for an hour and a half to two hours every night, but recently, it's been crunch-time at school, which has limited her playing, if only slightly. According to the violinist, and self-proclaimed "bio nerd," the music she now plays would require around three hours of practice a day - but she also has AP coursework to contend with.
"Right now it's really busy, so it is hard to balance things," Nason said. "But you have to prioritize and figure out what has to be at the top of it all, and then go down from there.
The discipline Nason exhibits is also a product of the music she plays.
"I think the neat thing about music is it prepares you," Nason said. "You're not just getting to be a better musician. I think, when you play, you become a better person. I know through a lot of the experiences that I've had, I've just grown so much.
"If there's a tough obstacle to overcome, you have to break it down into small measurable goals," she said. "Music teaches that you can conquer anything with a bit of hard work, determination, and the mindset that you must never never never give up.
Those experiences have included summer music camps at Ithaca College and Bryn Mawr Colleges, which Nason says have greatly shaped her musicianship and who she is today.
"You're on your own, practicing, where there's a lot of pressure," she said. "You feel like you age a million years. Or you just grow up. And I've grown up with music. It teaches you how to use your time. It teaches you the importance of discipline. Because there are time when you don't practice and then it shows. And then when you do practice, it also shows. It teaches you the importance of doing something, and keeping up with it, and never quitting, even when you feel like it's getting too hard."
Nason began studying with the Suzuki method, which begins by teaching young violinists to learn music by ear, and then progresses into reading sheet music. Now she loves the Romantic era, as well as Beethoven, whose music bridged the Classical and Romantic eras.
"It's just really beautiful," Nason said of the era's music, and Beethoven in particular. "I think it's in some ways harder than just the fast, repetitive stuff, because you have to really make every note count, and you have to know where every note leads."