Grand Island’s Grayson Shelp Finally Gets His Kleinhans Music Hall Moment


Grand Island’s Grayson Shelp on stage at Kleinhans Music Hall.

Sat, March 19, 2022 7:00 AM

Article and photo by Michael J. Billoni

When Grayson Shelp was in third grade at William Kaegebein Elementary School on Grand Island, he became interested in Mrs. Ells’ optional orchestra class. When asked to select a string instrument to learn that year, he was torn between cello and double bass.

Edwin and Kimberly Shelp’s son came home and explained his dilemma to his mother. Instinctively, she told him they would hold a blind audition with him listening to solos featuring each instrument.

“I like the smooth, connected notes of both, but the bass sounded more distinct,” the Veronica E. Connor Middle School sixth grader explained.

Grayson enjoyed playing the double bass in third grade and took summer lessons on the 5-foot-tall stringed instrument. He is currently 4ft 9in tall.

“The bass is the least played instrument of all stringed instruments,” he said. “When I started playing, I must have admired it. But I love everything about the instrument, and especially its sound.

He continued to play in fourth grade, in the spring of 2021, and through fifth-grade practices and tryouts, which were held virtually during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We had virtual meetings, which were different — and a lot of our students dropped out — but I stuck with it,” said Grayson, who also has a 99-point average and is an active member of the team. chess.

In early 2021, Ms. Ells introduced students to the All-County Music Festival, sponsored by the Erie County Music Educators Association, which has served music education since 1949.

All-County takes place each March and includes five weekend festivals, featuring seven choirs, four orchestras, four bands and four jazz ensembles showcasing the talents of school-aged musicians from across Erie County .

Last year’s trials were held virtually. Grayson earned a perfect 100 on the level one song he performed, “March of the Giants”.

Unfortunately, he was unable to perform on stage at Kleinhans Music Hall due to the pandemic.

“Not being able to play Kleinhans was disappointing, but trying virtually was much easier because you don’t have to play in front of anyone,” Grayson added.

In sixth grade, he continued with the orchestra. Her teacher is Ms Ells’ husband Matt, who brought students to Sweet Home High School on January 22 for tryouts.

Grayson advanced to level three and received a score of 95 out of 100 after performing “The Jolly Dutchman”. Four weeks later, he was informed that he had qualified along with five other string bass players for the selected group to perform at the 73rd Annual All-County Music Festival at Kleinhans Music Hall.

Nora Murnane-Robertson of West Seneca was the conductor. Jennifer Haag from Hamburg and Anneke Ieda from Williamsville are the co-chairs who led the rehearsals of 36 violinists, 11 viola students, 12 cellos and the six string bassists of Sweet Home four afternoons before the concert.

During the concert last Saturday afternoon, they performed the following songs to perfection: Johann Sebastian Bach’s “Brandenburg Concerto No. 5”; “Variations on a Sailing Song” by Carl Strommen; “Amadeus from Symphony No. 25” by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart; and “Three Scenes from a Green Valley” by William Harbison.

“It was a great honor to be on that stage and I didn’t feel nervous,” said Grayson, who was dressed nicely in black pants, a white shirt and a black tie.

Reflecting on that experience, Grayson said he looks forward to continuing to qualify for this annual event — and possibly moving up to state competition as he gets older.

“I credit my bass profession to the Ells family. If it wasn’t for Mrs. and Mr. Ells, I wouldn’t be here today,” Grayson said. “Learning to play this instrument with them as teachers helped me a lot in school in my studies and overall I became a much better person. I also learned self-discipline through these trainings.

Grand Island Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Brian Graham said, “We are very proud of Grayson. He is an extraordinary student who excels in academic excellence, personal growth, social responsibility, entrepreneurship and the fine arts! We wish him all the best on his journey with the Erie County Orchestra!

Grayson is also a member of Boy Scout Troop 630 at St. Stephen’s Church. Last fall, he was featured in the Dispatch for his popcorn sale outside Gui’s Lumber. It sold $15,005 worth of items, ranking it first in the district and second in the United States. In the past three years, dating back to when he was a member of Cub Scout Pack 425, he has sold over $30,000 worth of popcorn items. Grayson is also a young entrepreneur with his mobile Healthy Eats cart, where he delivers freshly grown vegetables from his garden to neighbors.


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