For Frankfort teen, a day of music revealed life’s calling
BY CHERYL DANGEL BARTOLINI Correspondent June 8, 2012 2:20PM
Eli Ramirez, a talented musician at Lincoln-Way North High School in Frankfort. He is a guitarist, cello player and vocalist and wants to pursue a degree in music education. | Matt Marton~Sun-Times Media
Updated: July 12, 2012 6:00AM
Eli Ramirez is a talented musician — instrumentally and vocally.
Ramirez, who graduated from Lincoln-Way North High School in Frankfort just weeks ago, plays the guitar, cello and marimba, sings and is heading to college later this year to study choral education in hopes of becoming a music teacher.
Oddly, just a few years ago, music was not an integral part of Ramirez’s life.
Yes, Ramirez, 17, always liked music. He first became interested in the guitar in fourth grade, and by sixth grade, he had tried the trombone.
“But that didn’t work out too well,” Ramirez said.
He didn’t do much with music in seventh or eighth grade, but that all changed when he entered high school.
“I met my girlfriend,” he said, “and she dragged me to a jazz ensemble and the director made me join marching band. Once I was there, I enjoyed it. By my sophomore year, I was involved in everything else and I joined every ensemble I could.”
Fast-forwarding, as he wrapped up his high school career, Ramirez was playing guitar for Lincoln-Way North’s jazz band and jazz combo. For the past two years, he was the drum major for the Marching Phoenix. He was third chair cellist in orchestra and played the marimba in band.
Ramirez also was a member of chorale, an exclusive curricular choir at Lincoln-Way North, and Gold Rush, a contemporary ensemble. This past season, he was a member of Madrigals, a prestigious acapella group that performs traditional holiday music, and student director of Acafellaz, a boys acapella group. As student director, he arranged a lot of the music and ran rehearsals. He also was student director for North’s spring musical, “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown,” and performed on stage in the role of Shermie.
How did that one seemingly innocent visit to a jazz ensemble change his life so dramatically?
“I went into high school thinking I could only be a music kid if I played a band instrument but what I didn’t know was that our school had string classes,” Ramirez said.
You could say that Ramirez’s “talent scout” was his girlfriend, Brie Albriola, 18, of Mokena.
She is now in college but was a trumpet player in high school when she first recognized Ramirez’s talent.
“We had a study hall together and she knew I played guitar. She wanted me to play in the jazz ensemble because they didn’t have a guitarist at the time,” he said.
Ramirez built on his experience with the guitar to learn cello and everything snowballed from there.
“I really enjoy the personal connection to music. It defies all boundaries that gender or race can have between 30 or 40 people. I enjoy the message music can give you as an individual and as a group,” said Ramirez, who loves hard swing jazz and bebop.
The son of Kathy Ramirez, of Frankfort, he said his role model is Weston Noble, a famous music educator and conductor.
“I read one of his books and he is an advocate for how choral music can change your mind,” Ramirez said. “He is really into the mindset that music can change your whole environment. When he taught a group, he tried to get a special balance between body, mind and soul to achieve a special moment in time that can’t be duplicated without music.”
Ramirez will attend the College of Music at the University of North Texas. There, he wants to pursue a degree in music education.
“Teaching is the only thing that feels right to me,” Ramirez said. “I like seeing the results when I am teaching someone.”