Alex Amick isn’t content to stay in his comfort zone. The Oak Harbor High School senior spent much of his life pushing himself, personally and musically.
He was recently selected as the recipient of Island Consort’s Young Musicians Award. With it, he received $500 and an invitation to perform at one of the music group’s concerts.
Amick, 18, studies piano with a professor at Western Washington University and music theory with composer and retired professor at Cornish College of the Arts Janice Giteck.
Playing the piano wasn’t always Amick’s passion, however.
“I didn’t like it when I was little,” he said. “I didn’t like practicing. It was painful.”
He started around 12 years ago, and played through the pain to the point where he wants to study music performance in college. He’s recently been preparing for auditions with Oberlin College, Western Washington University and University of Washington.
Though ambitious, Amick is also a pragmatist. He said he hopes to double major in either chemistry or environmental engineering.
“The goal is to perform as a living,” he said, “but that’s quite idealistic and very difficult to attain.”
It’s the challenge of the performance that keeps him interested in music, though. Mastering the technique takes time and effort, he said, but it’s not comparable to “losing yourself in the moment.”
He spends an average of 90 minutes a day practicing, although it’s been more than that recently because of his upcoming auditions. When he performs, he’s ultimately trying to console people and remind them they aren’t suffering alone. He admits “music brings people together” might sound like a cliche, but it also rings true.
As a performer, he also wants to be a messenger of hope.
Sheila Weidendorf, director of Island Consort, said Amick’s “music depth and sensitivity” are what drew the award committee’s attention. In addition to his technical ability, the committee was impressed by his commitment to “using his talents to uplift humanity.”
To describe what happens when he gets on stage, he used the psychological term flow. Also known as being “in the zone,” flow describes a mental state in which performers become fully immersed in their activity.
“The mechanics of playing are forgotten,” he described. “You’re more focused on the sound you’re creating and the audience has dissipated in your mind. You feel more vulnerable but in a good way.”
He’s also written music, but doesn’t consider himself a composer. He said he struggles with the mindset needed, but he likes the idea of it. The kind of time it takes to develop that skill though isn’t something he’s really had room for in his schedule.
The pianist performs regularly in solos, accompanies the Oak Harbor High School choir, has played for musical theater productions and used to be a mentor for Big Brothers, Big Sisters of Island County.
His decision to become a “big brother” also stemmed from his pursuit of personal growth.
“Talking to children for me is like speaking to a foreigner, I just don’t understand them,” he said with a laugh.
But he took that step to get out of his comfort zone and said he learned a lot about himself while trying to create a positive impact on a kid’s life.
As he nears gradation, he said he felt he could relatively easily seek a “purely academic” career without music but feels it wouldn’t be personally fulfilling. There’s more of a challenge in the necessity to “face the public” while performing, he said.
“I want to push myself to the point of questioning my existence,” he said.
“The uncertainty of the path is what intrigues me.”