Bubbly and bright, with a Polish accent and a penchant for musicals, Jessica Bieniarz is a shining star among Maine East’s crop of talented musicians.
The cellist, a junior, seems to be an anomaly as far as young musicians go. Whereas most adroit musicians typically spring from musical families, Jessica’s parents are not musicians. All the same, her parents were extremely proactive in developing a stern practice regimen for the young woman.
“When I was in Poland, I practiced every single day after school. Get home, eat dinner, practice.”
Since coming to America, the star student’s rehearsals have tapered off somewhat, “I still try to practice every day, it’s just a lot harder now. I don’t even have weekends free. Monday through Sunday: something every day.”
The drop in practice has apparently had no adverse effects in Jessica’s skill-level; the musician won a seat in the Chicago Youth Symphony Orchestra. In her spare time she attends the Music Institute of Chicago’s highly selective Academy Program, which is billed as “a prestigious curriculum for the serious and gifted.”
While certain musicians claim a spiritual kinship with their particular instrument, Jessica’s decision to play cello was unorthodox to be sure, but refreshingly unassuming. She laughed as she recalled her mother’s advice in choosing between violin and cello. “’You don’t have to stand with the cello,’ my mom said, ‘so why don’t you play that?’ That’s really how it happened and now I’ve been playing cello since first grade.”
Jessica has only been studying at Maine East for a short time but has already made a lasting impression. Fine Arts Department Chair Edward Eubank considers Jessica “the most outstanding cellist we’ve ever had at this school.”
When this teen isn’t wowing her peers and music department faculty with a Bach Cello Suite, one can usually find her in the swimming pool. Jessica is an integral member of the award-winning Maine East girls swim team.
While the phrase ‘music theory’ may make a typical high school musician shudder with dread, Jessica grows positively giddy when asked about it. “AP Music Theory class is fun! I like the debates,” she adds, referring to the classroom exercise of one student's work being critiqued by her peers. “I even take extra music theory classes on Saturdays.”
That attitude towards peer review and musicianship could take Jessica far in her academic career. As a junior, she has not yet begun the application process but has her sights set high. “I would like to go to music conservatory as opposed to a regular university. I hope to apply to Eastman School of Music, the New England Conservatory, or maybe the Colburn School.”
As of now, Jessica is set on majoring in music performance and it seems like she has the right attitude and acumen to excel in that field. When speaking of her performances, the confident teen seems more conscientious of the music being played than any inner emotional strife or stage fright. “I practice—practice a lot—and then go out and do my best. I just want to play cello. Just to sit and play and enjoy myself; it’s amazing.”
Her determination and enthusiasm have paid big dividends. Jessica is one of only two Maine East students to be awarded the distinction of performing at the Illinois Music Educators Association (IMEA) All-State Conference. Eubank says “only the upper echelon are chosen to go to the IMEA conference,” which ran January 26 to 29 in Peoria.
With her many accomplishments and talents, the community is certain to be hearing the name Jessica Bieniarz for years to come.