As a senior in high school, Monica Zsolt, ’08 couldn’t wait to study at GVSU under the direction of clarinet music professor Dr. Arthur Campbell, the recipient of the April 2013 Outstanding Educator Award presented by the Alumni Association. She was so confident that she would thrive in the program that she didn’t even audition at any other universities. This same confidence is what got her through an aggressive sinus surgery, a challenging rehabilitation process, and all the way to a performance at Carnegie Hall.
During her final year at Grand Valley, Zsolt was planning her wedding, setting up a student teaching position at Grand Valley, and plotting to move to Nashville. She was also dealing with constant and crippling sinus and tonsil infections that multiple consultations and eleven rounds of antibiotics wouldn’t fix. The only other option was to undergo an invasive sinus procedure that would put her talents as a clarinetist at risk.
After weighing the pros and cons, Zsolt gave the green light to her surgeon in the summer of 2008. The procedure cleared and expanded her sinus cavities, straightened her deviated septum, and removed her tonsils. Although the surgery was a success, Zsolt still had a long recovery ahead of her.
“It took me at least nine to 12 months to bring my playing back up to par,” she said. “I had to teach myself how to play all over again.”
She and pianist husband Alex moved to Nashville the summer following her surgery and the city welcomed them with opportunity. She began teaching and playing clarinet and the couple built connections within the music community. Two years to the day after the surgery that could have ended her career, Zsolt auditioned for and won the principal clarinet position with the Nashville Praise Symphony, a musical organization that performs benefit concerts for non-profit ministries. Through this organization, she was contacted by renowned conductor Camp Kirkland and asked to accompany him to the debut performance of the Annie Moses Band at Carnegie Hall. She played first chair.
“Sitting on that stage knowing who had performed on that very spot throughout the decades was humbling and amazing all at the same time.”
Zsolt says that this experience wouldn’t have been possible without her guidance from Dr. Campbell and the education she received at Grand Valley.
“My degree in Music Education is a key factor in my employment in the Nashville school system, as well as my teaching ability with my private students and church orchestra. I am thankful for the faculty who shaped me as a musician and helped me refine the skills I needed to do the things I am doing today.”br />While at Grand Valley, Zsolt had the honor of joining the GVSU Symphonic Wind Ensemble at the Michigan Music Educator Conference as well as the Laker Marching band to Florence, Alabama to watch the football team take home the national championship title in 2003.
When she’s not performing in big city music halls, Zsolt can be found either at Hermitage Hills Baptist Church where she serves as Orchestra Director, Williamson County Schools where she teaches middle school band, or instructing in her own private clarinet studio. She and Alex still reside in Nashville.
Updated April 2013.