The music area is located on one of the lower levels of Bellefonte Area High School, a series of rooms where long, arduous hours of practice have honed talents and sharpened skills.
It’s a familiar adage — that practice makes perfect. If nature did hedge out nurture as the predominant influence on a person’s prepackaged assortment of attributes and abilities, those same gifts still require exercise, even if just the right set of genes are aligned in just the right order, like notes on a sheet of music.
And if that’s the case, then Daniel Zimmerman could probably play them in his sleep.
Daniel is a senior at Bellefonte Area High School and is a tenor saxophonist in the jazz, concert and marching bands. On top of his already busy schedule as a student, he spends an estimated six or seven hours a week in the company of his instrument.
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“I just enjoy making the music with a lot of other good musicians,” he said.
It’s one of the reasons he’s looking forward to Wednesday, when he’ll join 673 other students from around the country at the Grand Ole Opry House in Nashville, Tenn.
Daniel will perform alongside the concert band portion of the 2015 National Association for Music Education All-National Honor Ensembles, a collection of young musicians made up of the very best from their respective states — so there’s a little bit of pressure.
“I’ve been working on the music for a month,” he said.
Fortunately he’s had a bit of a running start. Music is the Zimmerman family business, its stock and trade.
Daniel’s uncle, Jay Zimmerman, is the director of bands at Bellefonte Area High School and his father, John Zimmerman, taught music in the district for 35 years.
John Zimmerman was adamant that music would play a role in the lives of his children, that its influence was something to be recognized and appreciated.
“There’s always been a subtle, secretive push to go into music,” Daniel said.
He was in the fifth grade when he decided to play the saxophone like his older brother, Matt, but it wasn’t until high school that he started to feel a real sense ownership over the instrument.
It was the competition that did it — a freshman playing alongside older students who wanted to prove that he could keep up with the best of them.
“That was the time I said ‘well, I’m not doing this for Matt, I’m doing this to be good myself,’ ” Daniel said.
He’s spent many years working with Steve Bowman, a private saxophone instructor operating out of Boalsburg.
Daniel schedules his rehearsal periods around his other academic and extracurricular commitments, including the school golf team and life as an Eagle Scout.
Still, it’s in music that Daniel has found his primary mode of expression, an unspoken language that he can use when words fail him.
The band room is his home away from home.
“It makes me realize that there’s a place that I can go when I’m feeling sad or happy,” he said.