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.”