North Shore High School senior Fiona Shonik has been selected as the winner of the 2020 Marguerite Suozzi Music Scholarship.
Shonik, who has been a determined and accomplished trumpet player since she was in third grade at Sea Cliff Elementary School, said she submitted her résumé, New York State School Music Association scores and a 500-word essay describing her plans of pursuing degrees in music education and performance at Northwestern University next year. Taking all of these factors into account, members of the Nassau Music Educators Association awarded her with the $3,000 scholarship.
Shonik, 17, said the NMEA has played a pivotal role in her development as a musician. “The music educators on Long Island have always treated me so well,” she said, “and I’m so grateful for them because they’re truly amazing at what they do.”
Shonik has excelled at the trumpet from the moment she picked up the instrument, said Jodie Larson, Sea Cliff Elementary’s band director. “The minute she started,” Larson said, “she was committed, a great player and always a leader back then. I couldn’t be prouder.”
Even after elementary school, Larson said she and Shonik have almost become family. She said she has chaperoned Shonik to countless music competitions over the last decade, serving as one of Shonik’s main support systems throughout her life. Larson said she has watched her former star student grow into a wonderful musician and person, admiring her talent and dedication, as well as always being there to provide support and mentorship along the way.
NSHS band director David Soto said je feels very similarly about Shonik’s talent and personality, as indicated by his letter of recommendation to the NMEA, which played a large role in Shonik’s scholarship award. Soto has held his position at NSHS for nearly 32 years, he said, and Shonik has been one of the great highlights of his career.
“Fiona’s one of those young ladies that any band director would be proud to have,” Soto said. “She is kind, she has empathy, she’s super talented and one of the finest players I’ve had the honor to work with in my entire career.”
While Larson and Soto commended Shonik for her talent and leadership abilities, they both agreed that one of her most impressive qualities is her dedication to her craft despite being a female playing a typically male-dominated instrument. Shonik said she has been the only female trumpet player in her level throughout nearly her entire career in North Shore schools.
Larson said Shonik was determined to play the trumpet from Day One despite most girls playing flute or clarinet. Soto said Shonik’s consistent success throughout her life is a perfect indication of how it is possible to achieve anything one sets their mind and heart to, regardless of how it could affect them socially.
In thinking about the social effects of being a female trumpet player, Shonik said it really became a focus of hers when she attended a music symposium in Syracuse as an eighth-grader. She said was named first chair of the trumpet section and recalled all of the boys in the section making fun of one another for losing the spot to a girl. Even the conductor called her “Girl Power,” she said, further singling her out, but these experiences also inspired her to be a role model for girls who might take the same path.
“It was the beginning of me becoming an advocate for female brass players and becoming a feminist in general,” Shonik said.
Shonik said she wants to pursue music education and performance at the next level because she feels music truly brings people together. She said music can be therapeutic for many people, including herself. In performing music, she said she hopes to bring pleasure to people’s lives as they listen to her play. By teaching music, she said she wants to spread the ability to create that therapy by oneself, enabling her students to enrich their lives and those around them.
“As long as I’m helping other people and making people happy with my music in their life, it’s worth it,” Shonik said. “That’s the reason I’m doing it: really to give myself joy and to give other people joy.”
Although Shonik said she hopes to enrich the lives of those around her in the future, Soto said the process has already begun.
“I’m so proud of Fiona,” Soto said. “It’s true that students give teachers more than teachers provide to students, and Fiona’s one of those people who has given me much more than I ever possibly could have given.”