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Orland Park teen excels in two different worlds

Julianne Kennedy students Sandburg High School OrlPark IL  plays violwith Chicago Youth Symphony.   | Matt Marton~Sun-Times Media

Julianne Kennedy a students at Sandburg High School in Orland Park, IL, plays the viola with the Chicago Youth Symphony. | Matt Marton~Sun-Times Media

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Updated: February 22, 2013 6:01AM



There’s a definite dichotomy to Julianne Kennedy’s interests.

At one end of the spectrum is her passion for music. At the other, a love of science.

Kennedy recalls always being interested in music, so when the opportunity arose to join the school orchestra in fourth grade, she did, choosing the viola as her instrument.

Her interest hasn’t abated. Now a senior at Sandburg High School in Orland Park, Kennedy, 17, plays with the Chicago Youth Symphony Orchestras.

It was her private viola teacher, Matt Mantell, of Orland Park, who urged her to start playing with symphonies.

“He thought it would make me a better player,” Kennedy said.

She joined several orchestras, including the Northwest Indiana Symphony Youth Orchestra and the Chicago Youth Symphony Orchestras string quartet division.

She now gives most of her Sundays to the viola and the Chicago Youth Symphony Orchestras. She performs with the string quartet starting at noon, the regular orchestra from 2:15 to 5:15 p.m., and the Encore Chamber Orchestra, an honor orchestra, from 6 to 8 p.m.

It was with the Encore Chamber Orchestra that Kennedy got the chance to perform at the opening ceremony for the 2012 Ryder Cup, a golf match pitting the United States against Europe, at Medinah Country Club.

“It was very exciting,” Kennedy said. “It was a great honor to play there because it was such a big international event.”

At school, she has performed at the Illinois Music Educators Association festival all four years and has played in the Honors All-State Orchestra. She also performs with Sandburg’s honors student string quartet.

“I just love playing music. I have met a lot of my close friends through orchestra and it is a great way to bond with other kids with the same interest as me. It is also a lot of fun to make music,” said Kennedy, who is also active with first class leadership, National Honor Society and the speech team.

While she loves music, Kennedy has other loves: science and math.

She is a member of mathletes and Mu Alpha Theta (a math honor society), and also takes part in Worldwide Youth in Science and Engineering (WYSE) and Junior Engineering Technical Society (JETS) competitions.

Her passion for science and engineering has won out in her career choice. Kennedy dreams of becoming a bioengineer and would like to get into the field of cell tissue engineering.

“At first, I thought of being a doctor,” said Kennedy, who regularly volunteers at Palos Community Hospital. Then her brother, Pat Kennedy, 21, who studies civil engineering at the University of Illinois, showed her how interesting engineering could be.

Kennedy, the daughter of Mary and Ed Kennedy, of Orland Park, attributes much of her success to three people: her viola teacher and two coaches at Sandburg.

“Matt Mantell, my private viola teacher, is a great violist and violinist as well. He teaches me a lot of life lessons,” she said.

She admires Sandburg’s Dan Sackett, the head coach for the speech team, “because he has improved my public speaking immensely,” and applauds Michael Cieplak, the head coach of Sandburg’s JETS team, because “he is the absolute best teacher I’ve ever had,” she said.

Although music and engineering are far apart on the spectrum of life’s pursuits, Kennedy uses the same technique to keep focused on each endeavor.

“Knowing what my goals are, what I want to accomplish and setting my mind on accomplishing those goals keeps me focused,” she said. “When I get a job done, I feel a tremendous sense of accomplishment.”



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