R ight about now, Lena Goodson is sitting in the backwoods of northwest Michigan, playing the heck out of her double bass.
And loving every minute of it.
I know a little bit about music -- just enough to be dangerous, I guess -- but I'd never heard of an instrument called a "double bass" until last week.
I knew what a bass was, but not a double bass.
So when I learned the 14-year-old Goodson, daughter of Mark Goodson and France Couillard of York, was accepted as an Emerson Scholar at one of the most prestigious arts programs in the world to study the double bass and perform with distinguished youth ensembles, I was both impressed and confused.
"What's a double bass?" I asked Couillard
Her response? "It's a bass, only bigger."
Which, by the way, was the original attraction for Lena when she was introduced to the double bass as a second-grader.
"She was already learning the piano," Couillard said, "when she came home from school one day and said she wanted to play the double bass. We asked her why the double bass? She said it was the biggest instrument, and it was different."
But that didn't tell me as much as I needed to know about the double bass. I had to do a little research. What I learned is the double bass is sometimes called a string bass, an upright bass or a bass fiddle, depending on who you're talking to. Some people might even call it a doghouse bass or a contrabass.
Whatever you call it, it's the largest and lowest-pitched bowed string instrument in a symphony orchestra. It can be played with a bow or plucked.
So Lena doesn't play the piano anymore. "It was torture to get her to practice," her mother said.
But she's become an accomplished double bass player -- "We've never had to tell her she had to practice. Not once since she started the instrument in the third-grade," Couillard said.
Which is saying something, since Lena practices an average of two hours a day. Every day. Her brother, Alexander, 13, thinks his sister has no life. He doesn't like classical music, either. It makes for some long days, I guess, in the Goodson household.
But that's what happens when you have a young woman who is intelligent and self-driven, with an interest in music. It becomes almost all-encompassing.
Lena is the principal bassist in the York Youth Symphony Orchestra. She also received first place honors in the 2012 York Youth Symphony Concerto Competition.
And she was also a finalist in the 2012 Interlochen Concerto Competition which, by the way, she won.
She learned of the Interlochen Arts Academy a few years ago, her mother said, and made it a goal to apply for admission and participate, if possible.
She applied for the first time in February and was notified in March of her acceptance to the six-week summer arts program as an Emerson scholar.
There are only 43 Emerson scholars, which includes a full tuition scholarship -- the cost of the camp is about $7,500 per student for six weeks -- for high school-aged string, woodwind, brass and percussion musicians from across America.
Emerson scholars are chosen after submitting an audition video of two different classical pieces and a video of technical scales.
"To be recognized as an Emerson scholar puts these students in a most elite and prestigious group of talented people," Interlochen President Jeffrey S. Kimpton said. "It is quite an honor, not only for the students themselves, but also for the people and places that helped them to become the promising young musicians they are."
But it's no picnic in the park. It's an intensive six weeks of music study.
How intensive? Well, rule No. 1 at the Interlochen summer academy is no cell phones on campus. Rule No. 2 is no access to the Internet. Imagine six weeks for high school students without their cell phones or Internet access.
The reason? Those electronic devices might take a student's focus away from music. At Interlochen, it's not that music comes first, it's that music comes first, second and third on the list of things to do. No distractions allowed.
And if that weren't enough, there's rule No. 3: All students must wear uniforms. Every day.
But Lena knew all that, and she still wanted to go, Couillard said.
Already it's paying off, she said. She'd heard from the school that Lena had won second chair -- a ninth-grader playing with high school sophomores, juniors and seniors -- on the World Youth Symphony Orchestra.
"It's Lena's passion. Her goal is to play the double bass in a professional orchestra and teach in a studio. So this takes her a step in that direction," her mother said.
"She loves to practice," she added. "She loves to compete. She loves to play solo. She's going to get to do all of that in the next six weeks."
And when she comes back to York in early August, she'll be better for the experience.
Columns by Larry A. Hicks, Dispatch columnist, run Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.