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It takes determination to succeed in anything. Be it sports, writing or music, it takes hard work and elbow grease to accomplish goals. Without practice or ambition, it’s difficult to achieve anything. Two students from Western New York are showing that when you put your mind to it, you can do anything. Nate Doucette, a senior trombone player at Williamsville East High School, and Robert Donowick, a senior viola player at West Seneca West, are proving that commitment and dedication are just as important as talent. They are walking advertisements for all the things students can do when they put in work, and what they can accomplish when they put their minds to it.

Imagine doing something that puts you on the fast track to success. Imagine being really good at something, being so close to breaking through … and then having to turn your back on it all. Imagine, just for a second, what it must be like to go through all that. Because that’s what Nate Doucette had to go through when he quit playing baseball to focus on music and the trombone. At one point catching the eye of professional scouts, Nate decided to quit what might have been a remarkable career in baseball to focus on a career in music.

“I saw that baseball was endangering what else I could do, and I didn’t want to put all of my eggs in that basket – I wanted to put some eggs in this basket. It was a really hard decision,” Nate said.

Although it might have been a tough choice for him to stop playing baseball, the results of his decision have paid off tenfold. His accomplishments are something most players only dream of – and he’s just wrapping up high school.

Nate is the winner of the 2013 Eastern Trombone Workshop Division 1 National Solo competition; he won the “Original Composition - Orchestrated Work”/ High School Outstanding Performances” in Downbeat magazine’s Student Music Awards for his composition “The Rider” – a composition partly inspired by his love of cycling; and is principal trombone in the Greater Buffalo Youth Orchestra as well as lead trombone in the Eastman Youth Jazz Orchestra.

Indeed, Nate has reaped the benefits from playing in those bands.

“Being in those groups, you benefit endurance-wise, and playing long hours in rehearsals and concerts and what have you, as well as performing time and time again in front of the audience … knock on wood, I’m getting really good at the nerves,” he said.

But Nate doesn’t have his sights set on just being the best in the area; he has much bigger ambitions. His ultimate goal? Playing for U.S. military bands. “President’s Own is something I have my eye on,” he said. “I want to shoot for the top, top bands, you know, President’s Own is considered the best band in the world.”

And already he is closing in on achieving it – he will be attending the Cleveland Institute of Music, where he will study under world-renowned trombonist Massimo La Rosa, who he considers a huge inspiration.

“His playing is just unbelievable,” Nate said.

But even going to college was a choice he had to make.

“I had to make a really tough choice on going to college, because I won a job for the Marine field bands … I decided to go to college first – to achieve an even higher level with my playing and then shoot for the very top,” he said.

Hitting the road

Although dedication and hard work are extremely important for succeeding in music, passion and emotion are just as important. Just ask Robert Donowick.

“When I was younger, I was bullied, and I always found music to be my sanctuary. So every day I would come home and practice, even if it was only 15 minutes a day,” Robert said. “But what helped me out later on, depending on the story of the piece or the mood, I would transfer any emotions I had into the piece … I feel now that I’ve been able to put an extremely emotional side to my playing, as well as my technicality.”

And just as with Nate’s dedication and ambition, Robert’s emotion has helped him become an accomplished viola player. He has played in the Orchard Park Symphony, the Cheektowaga Symphony, the GBYO and the Southtown’s Youth Orchestra. He has also participated in NYSSMA and Erie County bands.

Although he has been playing viola since fourth grade, he did not become serious about it until eighth grade.

“I watched a video of Itzhak Perlman playing Bazzini on YouTube, and I went from practicing from 15 minutes a week to about five hours a day,” Robert said.

Although his list of credentials is long and distinguished, perhaps his biggest achievement is being chosen to tour with the National Youth Orchestra of the United States.

“The process of auditioning for the youth orchestra has been an experience in itself,” he said. “You had to send in a video of multiple auditions and solos, and pretty much the entire country auditioned … my dad called me to tell me I got in, and I just went out into the hallway and cried for an hour because I was so happy.”

The orchestra will begin its tour Tuesday and end July 23. It will be performing in places such as Washington, D.C,, London, Moscow and St. Petersburg, in venues as prestigious as the Royal Albert Hall in London and the Mariinksy II in St. Petersburg, Russia.

Robert will attend Juilliard, one of the best music schools in the country. But although the personal awards and accomplishments are nice, his ultimate goal is to help people realize how much music is needed in the community.

“I would like to make an impression on helping the community out with music,” Robert said. “Going to elementary schools and going to middle schools and even when I graduate college going back to high schools and hopefully trying to motivate students, and make people and society realize that music is important, and that we need music in the community. I really want to bring Buffalo back as a center for the arts.”

Zachary Jabine is a freshman at City Honors.