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Girl, 11, to play in pit — as first chair

| Wednesday, Feb. 5, 2014, 12:01 a.m.
Rachel Basinger | For the Daily Courier
Michelle McCalmont, 11, will be playing the violin during 'Oliver' at the Geyer Performing Arts Center in Scottdale.

When the actors of “Oliver” take the stage on Thursday in Geyer Performing Arts Center in Scottdale, there will be at least one young lady who will be experiencing the thrill of an audience and their reaction for the first time.

But she won't be on the stage. Instead, 11-year-old Michelle McCalmont of Donegal, will be playing first-chair violin in the pit orchestra.

Music director Rebekah Laughlin said her mother is good friends with Beth McCalmont, Michelle's mom.

“My mom knew Michelle played the violin and mentioned that we needed people for the orchestra for this show,” Laughlin said.

Beth McCalmont said she was thrilled when she was approached about the opportunity.

“I had actually been praying the Lord would provide an orchestra locally for Michelle,” she said. “I knew she would just enjoy playing with other people.”

Michelle was thrilled.

The young musician began playing the piano at 6, the violin at 8 and the guitar at 11. She taught herself to play the ukulele and the autoharp.

“I was surprised and excited when I was asked, but this is my very first musical so I said yes,” Michelle said.

During the past several years, she has played in her local church and at her brother's recent wedding.

“God gave me a talent, and it's my duty to give it back to him,” Michelle said.

Beth McCalmont said that after just the first practice, Michelle was totally alive.

“She wasn't tired at all,” she said. “I think it was one of the best days of her life. This has really been good for her. It has really sparked her loving her violin more.”

McLaughlin said she is thrilled to have Michelle as part of the orchestra.

“I think I knew she had talent, but I wasn't expecting her to be 11 and to be playing first violin already,” she said.

Along with Michelle, Laughlin said she is very grateful for the rest of her orchestra as well, all of whom are volunteers.

“My musicians have worked really hard and the fact that they come out and volunteer their time for community theater is so awesome and so appreciated,” she said.

Michelle said she is already looking forward to the next play.

Rachel Basinger is a contributing writer.

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