Carroll County Times

Musically-inclined Barnett twins prepare for life apart after high school

Twins Rebecca and Rachel Barnett, of Winters Mill High School, have been in a lot of the same classes over the past 13 years of school, and as their high school schedules got filled with more electives — mainly music and art classes — they had more and more classes together.

In fact, the identical twins unintentionally had identical schedules their senior year of high school. But after graduating Thursday night, the pair's paths will separate as they attend different colleges — though both will be studying music in the pursuit of being professional viola players.

Not wanting to compete for spots or scholarship money, the girls researched college music programs and tried to avoid applying at the same schools. The University of Maryland was the only crossover for which they both applied and auditioned.

In the fall, Rebecca will be attending the University of Maryland, College Park, and Rachel will attend the Eastman School of Music at the University of Rochester in New York. The pair say their decision to attend separate schools came rather naturally.

"We're kind of just known as the Barnett twins, or the Barnetts -- never as individuals -- and we figured college is where you're supposed to become your own person," Rebecca Barnett said. "So we figured it has to happen at some point where we separate, so we thought college would be the best time. It will be nice to have someone not mix me up for Rachel, all the time."

The two have never been apart for more than three days, but this summer they already have separate plans, though they both will be focusing on playing their instruments.

"We're doing separate summer camps this summer, and they're both a month long, so we'll have a trial run of not being together for a whole month, so that will be really nice," said Rebecca Barnett.

Rebecca Barnett will attend the Summer Music Institute at the Kennedy Center for Performing Arts in Washington, D.C., which both girls attended last year, and Rachel Barnett will be joining the National Youth Orchestra, spending the first two weeks in New York and then touring.

The girls are looking forward to the relaxed pace of summer after a hectic senior year.

"I know that senior year is supposed to be the best and most fun year out of every year, but I did not feel that way," Rachel Barnett said.

It wasn't necessarily the schedule of classes they chose to take in their senior year, which was heavy in music and art classes, but their quest to get into musical programs in college that added to their workload.

"They're not easy by any means, but I like doing the work for them," Rebecca Barnett said of her high school's art and music courses. "But combined with the extra practicing and the auditions, that's been really hard. And the applications for college, that's like a whole separate class in and of itself."

But their hard work paid off, and both girls got into college music programs with significant scholarships to boot.

The Barnetts have both been playing the viola since they were in the fourth grade, and became interested in being professional musicians when they hit high school.

"We were more well-rounded freshman year because we did cross-country and debate team, and then once we started focusing on music, the other stuff kind of took the back burner," Rebecca Barnett said.

Even in freshman year, the girls made all-county and all-state orchestra, and their musical pursuits grew from there. They also take lessons at Peabody Preparatory and participate in the Peabody Performance Academy for Strings, which is an all-Saturday program.

To continuously grow in their music abilities, the girls tend to practice two hours a day during the school year and three hours a day during the summer, when they have more free time. However, since each girl had in-person auditions at five colleges as part of their college application process, there were many days that they practiced three hours during their senior year school days as well.

"We initiated practicing before school, so I started practicing at 6 a.m.," Rachel Barnett said.

For the auditions, the girls memorized the repertoire requirements for each college audition, starting in the spring of their junior year and practicing through the summer and their senior fall semester. When they attended the auditions, the faculty members would name a piece, and the prospective student would have to play it on the spot, from memory.

"You basically have 10 minutes to show everything that you've learned for the past however many years you've been playing," Rachel Barnett said. "We'd get there in the morning, practice for hours until when the audition was, and once that was over, it was like 'OK, on to the next one.'"

Kristen Gottleib, director of instrumental music for Winters Mill High School, said the girls are extremely talented and encouraging to their fellow classmates.

"They have grown musically in the past four years and perform at the highest level, beyond the normal high school student," Gottleib said. "The Barnetts exhibit motivation and ambition in all areas of their artistic and academic career, achieving excellent grades and also excelling as visual artists. Rachel and Becca have been passionate in their journey to grow and eventually play music as professionals."

Rebecca and Rachel Barnett each said they will miss their friends and teachers from high school, but they will also miss their families and each other once they go off to college. The twins plan to stay in close contact during their separation, through Facetime on their iPhones and via email.

"I think it's going to be a huge change," Rachel Barnett said. "It will be an adjustment but I'm excited."