Recent Zachary High graduate Ashley Roberts is a world-class percussionist who never intended to play percussion. What started as a desire to play the flute, turned into the start of a journey that has graced Carnegie Hall and is destined for the internationally famed Sydney Opera House in Australia.
Roberts has been chosen to attend the 2019 High School Honors Performance Series at Sydney Opera House in late July. The Performance Series’ Board picked 300 young musicians from the more than 12,000 nominations from around the world. Roberts will be in the Sydney Opera House in the Honors Band under the conduction of H. Robert Reynolds, the principal conductor at the University of Southern California.
Sydney Opera House is a huge accomplishment for a musician, but Roberts reached a pinnacle of performance when she played on New York’s Carnegie Hall in 2017. Zachary band director Jason Venerable nominated her the Honors Performance Series at Carnegie Hall and performed in Carnegie Hall in the Honors Orchestra. That once-in-a-lifetime opportunity led to an audition invitation for the Sydney event.
“By chance” is the best way to explain how a little Zachary fourth grader chose the rare path of a female percussionist. Roberts said she had every intention of playing the flute when she signed up for band in the fourth grade. A friend of hers had already signed up for percussion, and he made fun of her choice and remarked “ah, yeah, go play the flute.”
She decided to show him something and tried out for percussion, too. “I signed up for percussion and here I am,” she said.
Roberts struck a chord of success at Zachary High and in other area ensembles. She performed with the Louisiana Youth Orchestra for three years, was chosen for the Multi-District Orchestra for two years and spent four years in the ZHS band with two of those years as a section leader of the front ensemble. She participated in All-Parish Honor Band, Stately Oaks Honor Band, and Chamber Winds Band Festival all four years of high school.
Her résumé includes many awards. She received the John Phillips Sousa Band Award for 2019, Most Outstanding Percussionist for 2017 and 2018, and the Instrumentalist Magazine Musicianship Award in 2016.
Proud mom Beth Roberts will be making the trip to Australia and they have just finished getting passports and making final arrangements. “She’s very excited,” Roberts said of her mother.
Robert will return to the states with just a few weeks to plan for the next big adventure — college. She will be attending the University of Louisiana at Lafayette and major in music performance. She has been accepted into the Orchestra, Percussion Ensemble, and the Chorale at UL.
Choir will be the new musical challenge in her life, and she acknowledges that it does look like a very demanding schedule with touring and travel, but she’s giddy, excited and full of advice for the younger musicians coming behind her. “Honestly, just have fun with it,” Roberts said. “If you think of practice as more of a chore, it’s not going to be fun or enjoyable.”
She said the hard work put into her time in the Zachary High band helped build what she termed a “family bond.” “It means the world, so just have fun with it,” she said.