Walking to the Beat of His Own Drum at Catalyst Circle Rock

My name is Wanye Williams. I’m a current 6th grade scholar at Catalyst Circle Rock. I have really loved my time at Circle Rock. I’ve been going to school there since kindergarten! One of my favorite parts of my school is the after-school orchestra program that they run with Ravinia. We started music as a class in the 3rd grade and in 4th grade, we got to choose our instruments. I chose percussion. I really enjoy being a percussionist because I like to make different beats and rhythms. I play lots of different percussion pieces – from the timpani to the glockenspiel. But, I like playing the drum set the best.

I also love playing in the orchestra because I’ve made the best friends there and we play together in different places like the Telemundo Festival and Dominican University. We practice a lot and work hard to make sure our music sounds as great as it can. We give each other feedback to help make the music sound just right when we perform.We have also played at the Symphony Center, where the Chicago Symphony Orchestra performs and the outdoor Ravinia stage.

My teachers really support me to stay involved in the orchestra that we all love so much. We have to keep high grades in order to keep playing our music. If our teachers notice our grades dropping, they offer to help us out in whatever we need support in. Everyday I’m growing to be the best student and percussionist I can be.

By Ms. Kenya Williams, Catalyst Mother

My name is Kenya Williams. My son, Wanye Williams, is a 12-year-old, 6th grade scholar at Catalyst Circle Rock, a school that he has attended since kindergarten. I chose Catalyst Circle Rock for my son because the school was located in our neighborhood in Austin, and I heard great things about the academics and culture. I thought to myself, “Why not? Let’s try it!” I entered the lottery, got accepted, and have been enjoying our lives at Circle Rock ever since.

Catalyst holds their scholars to the highest of academic expectations. From kindergarten, Wanye has excelled academically. The teachers and staff support him to be as well-rounded as he can be. He’s helpful, loving, energetic, and very outgoing. He’s able to juggle many activities in his schedule, including orchestra and other academic clubs. I’m so happy that he is learning how to do all this now before he’s in college. They also have an incredibly warm and encouraging culture. One of my favorite memories is of the past principal greeting each and every student by name upon entering school.

One of the main reasons that we are so happy at Catalyst Circle Rock is that they have a strong focus on music, and they have partnerships with community organizations to help our children to explore the arts. The most important partnership is with Ravinia, an organization that comes to Circle Rock each day to teach students in an orchestra. Wanye began to play music when he was just in the 3rd grade. The students all made paper violins. As simple of an instrument as it was, he loved that violin! The next year, though, really catapulted his passion for music. 4th grade is the year that Catalyst students are able to try out instruments to choose the one that really speaks to them. It was truly a life-changing experience. He went into the day thinking that he would play the violin, but he left with a passion for percussion. Now, being a percussionist means so much more than tapping on a snare drum – Wanye plays everything from the timpani to the bongos to the glockenspiel. He picked it up that day and never looked back.

The orchestra conductors push the students to work hard and perform at their highest potential. They practice as a group most days after school. All students also have an independent practice requirement. In this environment, Wanye progressed quickly, playing with the advanced senior orchestra in his second year. He now also plays with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra Percussion Scholarship Program. In this program, Wanye is led by the great Douglas Waddell. He takes private lessons from him each Saturday as well. Practicing this much was really a struggle for Wanye at first, but being surrounded by so many excellent musicians really inspires him to become better. Without his start at Catalyst Circle Rock, he’d never be where he is today.

Next year, Wanye will start the process of preparing for high school. At Catalyst, they make sure that all of the 7th graders know what to expect so that they have a better chance of getting into their preferred high schools in 8th grade. Right now, Wanye’s top choices are Noble’s UIC College Prep and Whitney Young because of their excellent music programs. I know that wherever he goes, though, he’ll remember what he learned at Catalyst, and it will drive him toward excellence.