Howard County high school senior is headed to Carnegie Hall

Madelyn Kunkle will play in New York City in February. (Photo: WTHR)

HOWARD COUNTY, Ind. (WTHR) - Beautiful music, talent, persistence and lots of practice are sending a Russiaville teenager to play in New York's Carnegie Hall.

The Western High School senior is eager for the opportunity.

And a little nervous.

Madelyn Kunkle's two hands, 10 fingers and four mallets danced up and down a marimba, making music that at once sounded happy and then thunderous and dark.

She's intense, smiling only after the performance is complete. This is serious fun.

"I feel a rare responsibility not to screw up." Madelyn said with a laugh.

She is among musicians picked from around the world to play together at Carnegie Hall. She's ecstatic and a little apprehensive.

"The greats have played there. It's awesome I can play on the same stage that some of the best musicians in the world have played on," she said.

Madelyn started playing as a sixth grader, a pastime that quickly became something more.

"It's my passion." she said with a tone of seriousness and pride.

On one school break, she took home a full-size marimba.

"In my mom's kitchen." she said.

She said she practiced in the kitchen. We asked if that was a popular move among others in the house.

"No, not at all." she answered through a big smile.

Brian Caldwell, Western's music department chair, is a fan. He said he's watched Madelyn push beyond dedication.

"She would be a band rehearsal rat," said Caldwell. "She is in here a lot, usually the last person to leave and put out the lights. She pushes herself well beyond what people will do. She is a very unique student in terms of what she has done for herself.

Caldwell said he's not surprised that Madelyn was chosen to go to New York City.

"She's a very intelligent person. Your job as a teacher is to make yourself superfluous and I hit that milestone with Maddie, probably when she was in the eighth grade. There is not a lot I can show her to do musically now. She is on that journey, motivated mostly by herself now," Caldwell said.

The Carnegie performance is set for Feb. 2.

After graduation Madelyn's college major will be in music performance. She sees the Carnegie Hall trip as an opportunity.

"You learn from people miles ahead of you," she said. "You only get better by seeing those people."

And maybe some of those people will learn something by what they see and hear from Madelyn.

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