Morris Knolls Student Spotlight: Colleen O'Donnell

Colleen after the National Honor Society Induction Credits: Pauline O'Donnell
Colleen O'Donnell playing at Carnegie Hall, 2012 Credits: Colleen O'Donnell

DENVILLE, NJ- TAP into Denville took notice of a Morris Knolls High School who stands out amongst her peers, and is heavily involved in the student body. This week's spotlight goes to Colleen O'Donnell, Class of 2016.

O'Donnell is heavily involved in the music program at Morris Knolls, and is a member of the Women's Choir, Concert Choir, The Chorale, Jazz Band, Concert Band, and the Pit Orchestra. She is also a member of the National Honor Society and the Tri-M Honor Society. As a junior at Knolls, O'Donnell already has a plan for her studies in college. In addition to her music involvement in school, O'Donnell takes piano and vocal lessons twice a week.

"I'm planning on studying music. I'm debating on piano performance or piano accompaniment. Piano performance is very competitive and it's hard to make a living on it. Accompaniment is more of a steady endeavor, and you can make a lot more money off it. I've looked at Eastman School of Music, Westminster Choir College, Shenandoah Conservatory, Boston Conservatory, and Julliard School of Music."

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Her dedication to music doesn't just stop in her school, as O'Donnell uses her musical talents for the good of others. As a student of Ferri Music Studio in Denville, O'Donnell participated in a benefit concert to help raise money for the people of the Phillipines who suffered due to a typhoon in 2013.

At Ferri, O'Donnell was an accompanist and the musical director for the Music Educators Assosciation of New Jersey Student Recital, and she was a piano soloist and piano accompanist for the Keyboard Achievement Recital for the last three years.   

O’Donnell also was the lead pianist for a Piano Recital for Bristol Glen Methodist Home, and was a pianist and vocalist for the Northern New Jersey Gifted and Talented Recital.

"One of the things I really want in life is for my music to benefit not only me, but others as well. I don't care if I have to eat Ramen noodles for the rest of my life. As long as I am doing what I love, which is performing, that's all that matters to me," O’Donnell said

As a strong volunteer in her community, she has been a Girl Scout for 10 years. She is also a volunteer at St. Cecilia's Church, where she decorated the church for Christmas Eve mass, cleaned up the cemetery, and babysat fellow church members’ kids while they went to weekly mass meetings. She was also a guest percussionist for the Region Honor Choir. 

One of O’Donnell's biggest musical achievements is being invited to play piano at Carnegie Hall each summer. This summer will be her fourth consecutive year playing at Carnegie Hall. She will be playing Schubert's Impromptu Opus 90 no. 4. She's also playing alongside an Oboe player who will be playing La Cinquantaine by Gabriel-Marie.

O'Donnell will be playing at Carnegie Hall on May 23. For the past three years, she has won the Catherine Coleman Grand Citation of Excellence for multi-category piano performance and accompanying for her performances at Carnegie Hall. She has also won the first place pianist award at the 2013 and 2014 Garden State Fine Arts Festival. When Morris Knolls Concert Choir attended Disney World this past year, O'Donnell was given the Student Achievement Award for Accompanying.

After college, O'Donnell would love the opportunity to tie all her loves together by performing, accompanying and teaching. 

"I would love to be able to travel the world and perform. However as a steady job to make money, I would love to be able to give private piano lessons," O’Donnell said.

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