Since 2014, Music in the Somerset Hills has been awarding its Young Musicians Scholarship to talented high school seniors who embody the values the organization holds dear. “Kelly Irwin and Gavin Tomasco’s scholarship applications shone with stellar music submissions, impressive resumes and extremely well-written essays that exemplified passion, dedication and a remarkable decisiveness regarding their desired trajectories for a career in music,” says Billy Webster, executive director of Music in the Somerset Hills. “Perhaps for the first time, the personal essays had as much to do with deciding the winners as the musical performances did. We have no doubt that they will accomplish all their goals and more and are delighted to be able to provide them with support as they embark on the next phase of their musical journeys.”
Find out more at musicsh.org.
Kelly Irwin, Vocalist
Hillsborough High School
High School Distinctions: Irwin was heavily involved in her high school’s choir and musical theatre, including serving as president of the Choir Council and performing as a soprano in the auditioned-based Mixed Chorale. She is a founding member of Cardinal Voices and The Chamber Ensemble. She has performed in all the school musical theatre productions and served as the Student Music Director for “SpongeBob SquarePants,” in spring 2022.
Honors: Irwin is vice president of Hillsborough’s chapter of the Tri-M Music Honor Society. She also has performed as a part of the New Jersey Music Educators Association All-State Chorus, Central Jersey Music Educators Association Region II Chorus, The College of New Jersey Honors Festival and the 2021 Peabody Conservatory Summer Vocal Academy.
Irwin is a semi-finalist for the 2022 Hal Leonard Vocal Competition, Gold 1 Recipient of the 2021 New Jersey State Solo and Ensemble Festival and was awarded first place in the Musical Theatre Standard Level 2 (2020) and Junior A Category (2019) at the Mid Atlantic Music Teachers Guild Student Festival.
Giving Back: Irwin founded the mentoring program Boro Buddies Online, which has provided over 3,000 hours of mentoring to over 140 Hillsborough elementary students. She was awarded her Girl Scout Gold Award in 2021 for leading the virtual Music Together Camp. She also co-founded Lend-A-Voice, a volunteer singing group dedicated to performing for the community, which also was expanded to include a Memorial Day tribute shared to United States Army bases across the world.
What’s Next: Irwin, who participated in the TCNJ Future Music Educators Institute, will study music education. “I want to share my passion for music with students as my directors, particularly Mrs. Ashley Mathews, has done for me,” she says.
What Music Means to Me: “Music is something I can always use to connect with others and give back to my community,” she says. “I loved working with the elementary school students, seeing their excitement when they learned something new. In high school, I enjoyed running the rehearsals for the choirs and directing the musical. These experiences have expanded my love for teaching through sharing my passion with others.”
Gavin Tomasco, Composer and Vocalist
Morris Hills High School in Rockaway
High School Distinctions: Tomasco, who lives in Chester, led the Morris Hills Scarlet Knights Marching Band as the Drum Major for two consecutive seasons.
Honors: Tomasco has been recognized for his compositions as a two-time finalist in the New Jersey Music Educators Association Young Composers Competition and was a winner of the 2021 Make Music Day Young Composers Contest.
He has participated in honors ensembles, including the National Association for Music Education All-National Mixed Chorus and All-Eastern Mixed Chorus, American Choral Directors Association Eastern Region Honor Choir and New Jersey Music Educators Association All-State Mixed Chorus.
His compositions have been performed by ensembles at Black River Middle School, Morris Hills High School and the Eastman Community Music School, as well by baritone Christopher Herbert.
Method: “I’ve been writing music since I was in the eighth grade. My style is classical and incorporates the voice in some way since I’m also a singer,” he says. “An important part of my process is working with poetry, so I read a lot of poetry to inspire me.”
Giving Back: During the pandemic, Tomasco spent hundreds of hours organizing seven virtual performances as a contribution to his musical community.
What’s Next: Tomasco will study music composition with a concentration in voice performance at the University of Michigan School of Music, Theater & Dance. “My plan is to become a professor in music composition,” he says. “This ties into my idea of the importance of musicians being able to inspire other people and create something that’s going to evoke some sort of emotional response. A teacher’s job is to inspire other musicians to achieve their potential.”
What Music Means to Me: “A musician’s role is to inspire people to make art together that they would be incapable of producing on their own,” he says. “Singing in a choir is especially rewarding. There’s something about being with a group of talented musicians and creating something together. We are producing music that is more profound than anything that we can achieve by ourselves as individuals.”