Violist Plays His Way to the National Stage


Riley Goodfellow

Cayden Walters (12) plays his viola in the instrumental music room during orchestra rehearsal. He is the section leader of the section and is rehearsing John Williams’ “Cowboys Overture” for the annual December concert.

Kate Finman, News Editor

Senior Cayden Walters is one of the top violists in the country. He was recently accepted into the prestigious All-National Honor Orchestra.
He started to play the viola in fourth grade, because it was “the different one.” He first recognized he had a talent for music after he made it into the Honor Orchestra after only one year playing the instrument.
In seventh grade, Walters was accepted to the selective Orange County School of the Arts (OCSA). His schedule there was very rigorous; he started school at 8 a.m. and ended at five p.m. every night.

“[Composition is] like therapy. It increases my well-being.

— Cayden Walters

At OCSA, Walters had the opportunity to travel to Central Europe and play in several of the famous concert halls, including the Golden Hall in Vienna and the Dvorak Hall in Prague. According to Walters, OCSA gave him a sneak peek into how intense the music industry can be, but it didn’t give him “a very well-rounded life.”
“I got my share of OCSA. I got three years, now I [go] to a normal high school, have more time to take more AP classes, and do other things,” said Walters.
He came to SJHHS at the beginning of his sophomore year. For Walters, SJHHS “was a little foreign at first. The first two weeks were a little difficult, but it wasn’t that bad [to transition].”
“[Cayden is] a really solid leader and especially during sight reading. He helps to keep us all in the right spot and to know where we are in the piece, due to the fact that he plays with purpose and always on point.” said Gillian Penna, another senior in the viola section.
So far, Walters considers his biggest accomplishment to be performing with the All-National Honor Orchestra.
“My goal was to do All-Southern and All-State first. I didn’t know I could do All-Nationals. I didn’t even know it existed. So, once I knew it existed I said, ‘Okay I’m just going to go for this and see if I can do the triple threat kind of thing,’” said Walters.
The musicians of the All-National Honor Orchestra came from all over the country and represent the best musicians of the United States. They spent three days in Orlando, FL, practicing for eight hours every day, then spent the remainder of their time at Disney World. On the third day, they performed several classical pieces, including Romeo and Juliet by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky and Candide Overture by Leonard Bernstein.
The orchestra was conducted by Dr. Margery Deutsch of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and the whole excursion was funded by the National Association for Music Education.
For college, Walters wants to stay close to home and is interested in University of California Irvine, the University of California Los Angeles, and Loyola Marymount University. He will complete live auditions for the music programs of these universities in January.
He plans to major in performance on the viola, with a minor in engineering, and wants to look further into music composition, which he learned at OCSA.
So far, he has composed 20 – 30 works and hopes to expand his skills to include symphonic pieces.
Walters said, “[Composition is] like therapy. It increases my well-being. If I think about something good, I can go write it down and then I will find how I can write a quartet out of it.”
His main goal in life is to join a high-performing, professional orchestra that travels around the world. On the side, he would like to design roller coasters that break records in Six Flag Theme Parks.
Walters does not have any venues at the moment, but he will be performing in the upcoming instrumental music program concerts at SJHHS and in a quartet at the choir concert this Christmas.