By JOSEPHINE MENDEZ The Herald-Dispatch
HUNTINGTON – When it came to choosing an instrument for band class prior to his fourth-grade year at Our Lady of Fatima, Armaan Karimpour unknowingly took the “Goldilocks and the Three Bears” approach.
“I wanted to find an instrument that I was decent at before the year started,” said Karimpour, now a sophomore at St. Joseph Central Catholic High School. “I tried the trumpet because my sister played it, and I was horrible. It was really horrific. Then I tried flute, and that didn’t work either. I couldn’t even get a sound out of it. Then I tried clarinet, and I could get a sound out that was the best sounding. It wasn’t the greatest, but it was the best of everything I tried.”
While it may have started as just an “OK” sound, after years of hard work and dedication, Karimpour has since been able to transform his sound into something that has garnered him recognition in Huntington, in West Virginia and beyond.
From a young age, Karimpour said music has been a way for him to express himself.
“There is so much emotion and expression that you can put into (music),” he said. “I am a very expressive and emotional person, and that’s just the way that I can express myself.”
Though his introduction to music started in choir in elementary school, Karimpour said he has grown to prefer his clarinet.
“For me I just like the sound of a really good clarinet and wanting to get better and improve my sound and become the best I can be and expressing my emotions while trying to get better,” he said. “I liked music when I was younger, but I wasn’t obsessed with it or did as much with it as I do now.”
While his music teacher Kristie Finney knew early on that Karimpour had an aptitude for the clarinet, Karimpour said it took him much longer to realize he might have a future as a professional clarinet player.
Though his accolades include principal clarinetist for his school band, first chair of the All-County Band for four years, sixth chair in the 2017 All State Band and principal chair for the 2018 All-State Orchestra, Karimpour said it wasn’t until he was selected as co-principal clarinet for the West Virginia Youth Symphony last year that he said it really hit him that this could more than just a hobby.
As part of the Youth Symphony, Karimpour said he had the opportunity to play side-by-side with the West Virginia Symphony Orchestra.
“It was the whole experience of playing with them and hearing them play,” he said. “I remember the first rehearsal, hearing the first second when we played together – it was amazing. That’s when I thought, ‘I want to do this.'”
Karimpour said his second confirmation came several months later when he was selected to be in the National Youth Orchestra 2 (NYO2) as one of three clarinet players.
NYO2 is a free orchestra program that comes together alongside NYO-USA each summer for intensive training and performance opportunities. Participating musicians are between the ages of 14 and 17 and come from across the U.S.
As part of the program, which will begin in June, musicians will train for two weeks in New York City before traveling to Miami to train and perform with the New World Symphony.
“I still don’t believe it,” he said. “I’m still worried I might get kicked out for some random reason or that it’s all a joke. I can’t believe it.”
Karimpour said he first learned of the NYO after attending the Blue Lake Fine Arts Camp in Twin Lake, Michigan, last summer.
“I was listening to a piece we played on YouTube, and one of the thumbnails on the side was the National Youth Orchestra,” he said. “They had a link, and that led me to their website, but I pushed it to the side thinking I could never get into it.”
Karimpour said he revisited the site in September and thought he would give it a try.
“At the very least I thought I could get feedback from my audition,” he said.
He then spent October and November preparing for his audition, which included a solo, minor and major scales, and two orchestra excerpts submitted via a video recording. Karimpour said he also was required to submit a personal essay.
Following countless hours of practice, Karimpour said he submitted all he required materials in December and the wait began.
“It felt like I was waiting forever,” he said.
His wait ended Feb. 16 when he received an email confirming he had been accepted into the ensemble.
“It’s still hard to believe,” he said. “When I found out, I called my private teacher and my family. It felt so unreal; I checked the email over and over again.”
Karimpour said none of his accomplishments would be possible without the support of family and friends.
“I have a great support system of teachers, friends and family that push me forward and make it possible,” he said.
While being such an accomplished musician at the age of 16 is a feat in itself, Karimpour also has many other talents.
He plays tennis and is a member of his school’s Key Club, Science Olympiad and Student Council.
Though he will likely be able to claim many more accomplishments before he graduates high school, Karimpour said he’s already planning for college.
Karimpour said he’d like to attend a liberal arts school conservatory and pursue a major in music performance with the clarinet as well as either a major in economics or engineering.