GFS student Johnny May

GFS student Johnny May

Germantown Friends School freshman Johnny May earned the spot of first-chair violinist and concertmaster in the prestigious Philadelphia Young Artists Orchestra (PYAO).

“I’m very excited,” he said. “I even have a solo, which is really cool because I’ve never done anything like that at this level.”

May began his musical career playing piano at two years old and took up violin two years later when his teacher realized that he had “perfect pitch”– the ability to recognize any note, pitch or key without hearing a reference note. While he showed immense talent at a young age, May modestly shrugs off the word “prodigy.”

“I’ve been playing for as long as I can remember,” he said. “Music is just a natural part of my life.”

May has entertained the GFS community as a performer in the school orchestra through Lower, Middle and now Upper School, as well as as a member of the BBQ – a quartet of four young GFS string musicians who started playing together when they were in Lower School.

May off-handedly said that he might like to be a professional musician when he grows up.

“I don’t spend a lot of time thinking about it,” he said.

He says that he practices “only” for an hour and a half each day because, in addition to playing violin and piano, he is also a serious baseball player. And as a student at GFS, he adds, “I might have more homework than other ninth-graders.

“I like that I’m able to do all of these things, and I’m happy that I can fit in everything and do well.”

May’s passion for music is only matched by his passion for baseball.

“When I’m playing baseball, I’m not thinking about music, and when I play music, I’m not thinking about baseball,” he said.

He acknowledges with a smile that it is a bit of an odd pairing.

“People who know me through music are generally surprised to find out that I play baseball, and when they find out that I’m a catcher, which is the most potentially dangerous position, they look at me like, ‘You’re crazy,’” he said.

May hopes this new experience in the PYAO will prepare him for the prestigious Philadelphia Youth Orchestra, but adds that he’s the type to “go with the flow” and likes to “live in the present.” He shyly admits that he is proud of this most recent accomplishment and how it will help develop him as a musician.

“It’s hard to do well, but I do my best and I’m always improving,” he added.