Quakertown musician accomplishes rare feat

Zach Polek is the first Quakertown Community High School stu­dent in more than three decades to fin­ish in first place in audi­tions as both a singer and an instru­men­tal­ist for the Pennsylvania Music Educators Association District 11 cho­rus, band, and orchestra.

That was a shock,” said Zach, a junior who is a bari­tone and plays the trom­bone. “Wow, def­i­nite­ly a shock.”

While the accom­plish­ment is extra­or­di­nary, the edu­ca­tors who have seen Zach’s growth praised his work eth­ic. “It’s not like this fell out of the sky and land­ed on him,” said Choral Director Erin Camburn. “He has three impor­tant traits for suc­cess: tal­ent, a real desire to improve, and he works extreme­ly hard. I am so hap­py for him.”

Band Director Frank Parker said “It’s a tremen­dous accom­plish­ment for any­one to fin­ish first, but to do it in two audi­tions is amaz­ing. Zach earned that. There’s a lot of hard work and prac­tice that went into it. We’re very proud of him.”

In addi­tion to Zach, sev­er­al QCHS stu­dents were cho­sen for the PMEA District 11 Choir and Band. Richard Strader qual­i­fied for both. Panthers in Choir include Otani Ekpe, AJ Lightbourne, Karinna Richardson, Amoria Riendeau, Tanner Sheridan, and Phillip Rotzell. District Band mem­bers include Danny Finlayson, Dan Juszynski, Makya Milkowich, Henry Moyer, and Kaitlyn Williams. 

Zach’s musi­cal jour­ney began when he was in the fourth-grade band at Richland Elementary. He said watch­ing his old­er sis­ter Michela — now a coach of the Panthers Color Guard — per­form in high school band was “kind of a spark.” He joined the Strayer Middle School choir in sev­enth grade.

At QCHS, Zach per­forms with Varsity Singers, Jazz Band, Indoor Drum Line, Marching Band, and the Wind Symphony and Senior High Honors Choir. Asked if he prefers singing or play­ing an instru­ment, Zach wouldn’t choose one over anoth­er. “They kind of feed off each oth­er,” he said. “My voice fits the same range as a trom­bone. I just love the art form and enjoy cre­at­ing music.” Music is some­thing he plans to major in dur­ing col­lege and chose for a career. 

My pref­er­ence is to attend a school with a large expanse of music. I like vari­ety,” he said. “Professionally, I plan to def­i­nite­ly con­tin­ue with the music aspect of things. I’m pas­sion­ate about writ­ing and cre­at­ing music. I do def­i­nite­ly want to keep singing, def­i­nite­ly play trombone.”

While he puts a great deal of time into his pas­sion for music, Zach is no slouch in the class­room. He has tak­en sev­er­al Advanced Placement class­es, includ­ing Human Geography, World History, Music Theory, U.S. History, Physics, and Psychology.

Mrs. Camburn said he achieved the top score of 5 on the Music Theory exam. “That’s pret­ty excep­tion­al,” she said. “He’s also a leader in a friend­ly and inclu­sive way. Zach has a super pos­i­tive atti­tude and is very humble.”

In addi­tion to work­ing with Mrs. Camburn and Mr. Parker, Zach has been tak­ing lessons from retired QCHS music teacher Jonathan Lechner. “I’ve had some real­ly strong instruc­tion that set the path­way to what excel­lence looks like and the path­way to get there,” Zach said.

Asked if he had any advice for fel­low stu­dents on how to achieve excel­lence, Zach said, “Don’t be afraid to get involved. Give it your all, what­ev­er it is. Put the best you can out there. I put a lot into music and get a lot out of it.”