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Local high school musicians will join Lindsey Stirling during performance at U.S. Cellular Center


Lindsey Stirling — Warmer in the Winter Christmas Tour

U.S. Cellular Center — Tuesday, Dec. 5 at 8 p.m.

Video still from Lindsey Stirling’s “Carol of the Bells” music video.

Eight local high school students will join Lindsey Stirling during her performance Tuesday at the U.S. Cellular Center in Cedar Rapids.

Sophie Pionek, a cellist from Jefferson High School in Cedar Rapids, said she learned that she would be playing with Stirling on Nov. 15, “the day we got our ACT scores back.”

“It’s really cliché, but my first thought was ‘Oh, is this really real?’ Then I thought ‘Oh, I’ve got to call my mom,’” she told Little Village.

Pionek, who has been playing the cello for about seven years, said she often listened to Stirling’s music when she was in middle school.

Two students each from Cedar Rapids’ Jefferson, Washington and Kennedy high schools and from Linn-Mar High School will perform on Tuesday, including:

  • Hannah Nguyen, violin, Jefferson High School
  • Anna Kolln, violin, Washington High School
  • Ella Wolle, cello, Washington High School
  • Reagan Linder, viola, Kennedy High School
  • Hannah Fusselman, cello, Kennedy High School
  • Sophie Hagen, violin, Linn-Mar High School
  • Laura Evans, viola, Linn-Mar High School

“It’s pretty common that local musicians will fill in during concerts, but it’s unusual for local students to fill those roles,” said Natalie Miller, director of orchestras at Jefferson High School and Roosevelt Middle School. “It’s a really neat opportunity.”

The students received music to practice in advance and will rehearse on Tuesday before the show. Pionek said she was relieved a few weeks ago when she got the music — mostly holiday-themed pieces and a few of Stirling’s other songs.

“I was kind of scared it would be hard and I’d only have a month to prepare,” she said, adding that although she is nervous about meeting Sterling and performing in the U.S. Cellular Center, she’s not worried about the music.

In addition to parents and grandparents, Pionek said some of her teachers, orchestra instructors and others will be attending the performance.

Stirling, a classically trained violinist, first appeared on the national stage as a 2010 quarter-finalist on America’s Got Talent, where she was described as a hip-hop violinist. She didn’t win, but that didn’t hold back her career. Combining her violin skills with choreographed dance, electronic beats and elaborate music videos, the Arizona native has worked her way up music charts and recently took a turn on Dancing with the Stars, where she nabbed second place.

She released a self-titled debut album in 2012, which nominated for Top Dance/Electronic Album at the Billboard Music Awards. Although she didn’t win that year, she took home the prize in 2015 for her sophomore album, Shatter Me. She repeated the accomplishment this year, earning the Top Dance/Electronic Album award for Brave Enough. She released a holiday-themed album, Warmer in the Winter in October this year.

Often described as a YouTuber, her videos have racked up over 2 billion views, including 184 million views for the video to her song “Crystalize” off her debut album.

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