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Students in the Spotlight

By Christian Weaner


Music Conservatory of Sandpoint Honors Students - Class of 2023

Each year, the Music Conservatory of Sandpoint (MCS) staff and instructors experience the bittersweet moment of watching a group of high school seniors graduate and move forward to new opportunities.

This year's group of distinguished graduates—Alanna Dixon, Levi Hill-Wright, Cody Moore, Kathleen Polocz, Lark Waldrup and Aaron Wilcox—have left a lasting mark at MCS, inspiring their instructors, parents and peers through their hard work and dedication to music and theatre arts. All six of these graduates have accumulated unique experiences, earned numerous awards and achieved high levels of mastery in their crafts.

Below are small capsules highlighting each student and some of their accomplishments at MCS.

Alanna Dixon. For the past four years, Alanna has balanced work, school and musical studies, taking vocal lessons from Brenda Rutledge, piano with Melody Puller and honors performance with Dr. Matt Goodrich.

Playing instruments and singing have become passions for Alanna, and she loves the challenges that some pieces present, allowing her to grow in her technique and musical understanding.

"What I enjoy most about being able to play and use different instruments is the joy and beauty that it can bring to my life as well as others," Alanna explained.

The MCS community has made a big impact in Alanna's life, and she appreciates the support and encouragement she has received from instructors and other students. She hopes to pursue a college degree in vocal performance, and her aspiration is to perform with an opera company in Europe one day.

Levi Hill-Wright. Two of Levi’s biggest passions are people and piano. Having played piano for nine years and studied under Melody Puller and Dr. Matt Goodrich at MCS, Levi became a sought-after accompanist, playing with choirs at MCS, Farmin Stidwell Elementary and Kootenai Elementary. Levi has also played piano and harpsichord for North Idaho Philharmonia and recently received a silver medal for his impressionist piano performance at the 2023 MusicFest Northwest.

“For me, music is a unique form of self-expression that is very personal and direct in how I can express who I am, what I do, and what I love," Levi said.

When he is not tickling the ivories, Levi enjoys being outdoors, playing basketball or chess and building relationships with his teachers, mentors and fellow performers.

This summer, Levi is currently attending Interlochen Center for the Arts, and he will begin his college studies at Portland State in the fall.

Cody Moore. Cody has played piano for 11 years and spent many hours working with Melody Puller and Dr. Matt Goodrich, but his talents and interests have also extended to vocal studies, theatre arts, handbells and cello.

"Music is a unique way to communicate emotion; it’s almost a whole different language that crosses cultural barriers," Cody explained. "Sharing my musical experience with the audience is my favorite part of performance; the hard work, the emotion, the beauty of the music itself."

During this past spring, Cody performed Pergolesi’s Stabat Mater as a countertenor, played the lead role of Tevye in the musical Fiddler on the Roof, and earned a silver medal for his romantic piano performances at MusicFest Northwest.

Aside from performing, Cody is an avid basketball player, and he plans to attend Warner Pacific University to study exercise science and kinesiology.

Kathleen Polocz. From the time she could talk, Kathleen has been singing, and for the last nine years she had been playing the violin.

At MCS, Kathleen has studied under Brenda Rutledge for voice lessons and Keegan Bernardin for violin, and she performs for numerous ensembles ranging from the North Idaho Philharmonia and Pend Oreille Chorale to MCS's handbell choir, ensemble choir, musical theatre and orchestra.

"I enjoy the beauty that can be shared, the story that can be told, and the synergy of making music with other people," she said.

Kathleen feels she has grown in her confidence and stage presence over the years, and she hopes to continue making music wherever she goes.

Lark Waldrup. Lark has played piano for seven years and studied under Caren Reiner, and she also enjoys violin, ukulele, bass guitar and taking care of her cat, Pico de Gato.

Playing piano has taught Lark the importance of dedication and shown her how rewarding her hard work can be. "The emotions that can be put into music allow for a release and a stress free space unlike any other," Lark added.

At MCS, Lark has been trained musically, but she has also been inspired and pushed to improve as a person.

"I love the community, dedication and dreams that live in the conservatory," Lark emphasized. "You will always find support, someone to push you to achieve your goals."

Lark plans to attend the University of Puget Sound in the fall and continue her music journey.

Aaron Wilcox. In addition to playing piano and working with Dr. Matt Goodrich at MCS for the last four years, Aaron also developed a strong passion for the classical Spanish guitar during his high school years.

Whether on the piano or guitar, playing music has become Aaron's go-to form of expression.

"Playing my instruments and listening to my favorite music gives me an escape into my mind where I can experience a world of my imagination," Aaron said.

Throughout his time at MCS, Aaron has appreciated the relationships he has built and the support he has received from the community.

Aaron earned a silver medal for his impressionist piano performance at MusicFest Northwest, and in the future he hopes to become fluent in Spanish, continue studying music and explore Spain when he has the chance.

The Honors Program at MCS is sponsored by Kochava and the Tom Rodda Legacy Fund.

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