WHEATON — At 14 years of age, Serena Harnack of Glen Ellyn has won numerous musical competitions and served as featured soloist in multiple symphony orchestras, including the Lake Forest Symphony and DuPage Symphony Orchestra.
Harnack, a ninth-grade student at St. Francis College Preparatory in Wheaton, was the first-place winner earlier this month of this year's DuPage Symphony Orchestra's Young Artists Auditions for her rendition of Vieuxtemps Concerto No. 4, which earned her a spot as the featured soloist with the DuPage Orchestra. This was Harnack’s third first-place finish in 2013.
Harnack said she was pleased she was able to play with the orchestra March 16 at North Central College. Although at a young age, Harnack appears to have already mastered something that challenges many performers — stage fright.
“I don’t get nervous when I play. You just have to prepare for the competition and then go out there and play,” she said.
Harnack enjoys performing for audiences. She enjoys creating music that becomes the center of an audiences’ attention.
“I like when people enjoy listening to me,” she said.
Music has always been part of Harnack’s life. Harnack grew up in a musical family. Her grandfather played the viola, and her mother and father perform with the disco/funk tribute band 7Deez.
She began playing violin at age 4 and has shown an adept skill at the classical instrument. Harnack was accepted to the Youth Symphony of DuPage at 8, served as “concertmistress” of the Preparatory Orchestra when she was 10 and began playing with the Symphony Orchestra of DuPage in 2009 as its youngest member. Harnack studies violin at the Music Institute of Chicago as the recipient of the Susan and Richard Kiphart Scholarship.
Clearly focused on excelling in music, Harnack has other interests. These include cheerleading and, that timeless activity of young women, shopping.
Besides violin, Harnack plays the piano, viola and flute. But it’s the violin that’s her first love.
When she heads off to college, Harnack said her focus will be a major in music with a concentration in violin performance. Her hope is to attend the Julliard School in New York City. She fell for the prestigious performing arts school after touring it with a strings group from Wheaton last year.
To be accepted into the program will require continued intensive studies of the violin, but she said it’s something she is ready to undertake. Harnack also offers advice to others interested in seriously pursuing music as a possible career. She said it takes hard work and sacrifice. “It’s hard work when you’re little. But if you put in the time and effort, you can go far,” she said.
In addition to her solo performances, Harnack performs with an ensemble group at school and plays fiddle with the Plank Road Folk Music Society at area festivals. Harnack said she enjoys playing other musical styles, such as pop and bluegrass, in addition to the classical music she normally plays.
Harnack’s next solo performance will be April 28 with the Fox Valley Orchestra at Aurora University.