PRAIRIE VILLAGE, Kan. — This weekend 120 astonishingly talented teenage musicians will gather near New York City to form the National Youth Orchestra of the United States. They’ll spend two weeks practicing and rehearsing and play a concert together at Carnegie Hall and then go to China for two weeks to travel and perform concerts there. This week’s FOX 4 young achiever is a member of that elite orchestra and music just scratches the surface of all that he has accomplished.
He’s a brilliant musician and a natural entertainer, breathtakingly skilled and inventive on his unique electric violin.
“I like to take a famous song and see how I can approach it in my own style and tweak it to make it sound the way I want while still kind of maintaining the original integrity,” said FOX 4 Young Achiever Akshay Dinakar. I think creativity is one of my greatest strengths.”
Akshay really enjoys sharing that creativity as he did several times this past spring semester at Shawnee Mission East High School when he surprised his peers with impromptu concerts during lunch or right before or after school.
“I realized I had the power to spread mood and emotion with my music,” said Akshay, “and I realized that was smoothing that I really wanted to try in a school setting and one thing that I just love doing is that I’m a proud member of my school’s Happy Club which I just love trying to make my classmates smile.”
Akshay is so good on the violin that for the second time he’s earned his way onto the prestigious National Youth Orchestra of the United State of America. They’ll play Carnegie Hall in New York City and then do seven concerts in China this summer.
“It’s a month long sleepover with 120 super freakishly talented best friends and amazing contacts who are very successful in their own way and in their own interests and can really help you pursue your interests lifelong,” said Akshay.
Akshay’s rundown of interests, activities and involvement is as extensive as any you’ll ever see for someone his age. It’s just phenomenal. The list goes on and on and on.
“I think my high school experience has been defined by trying to do as many things as I can to the best of my ability,” said Akshay. “One of my main problems is that I’m overly interested in everything.”
Akshay’s a gifted writer of poetry and prose and a superb scholar who aced the ACT exam and creates imaginative building designs. There’s community service, leadership, athletics. You name it, Akshay’s done it, everything at a very high level and always trying to get others involved.
“It’s in every part of his life in everything he does,” said Shawnee Mission East High School marketing teacher Mercedes Rasmussen.
Rasmussen was Akshay’s marketing teacher at East High for two years and his advisor for DECA, the student career development organization that focuses on entrepreneurship and business management. Akshay was a DECA state champion and international competitor.
“Akshay is so smart and people have known that for years,” said Rasmussen. “He obviously has this amazing intelligence about him. But he has the ability to embrace people and make people want to be a part of a group, a team, to be kind to one another, to learn about each other. And I think what he did was, he stepped outside of the normal cliques or boxes that you see in high school and he embraced everyone together.”
One way Akshay did that was by creating the Knee Hockey Club at Shawnee Mission East. He started it as a sophomore and by the end of his senior year it had become the largest student run club at East.
“I wanted to create a positive atmosphere where students could break down social barriers and start conversations with kids they normally wouldn’t talk to and become friends,” said Akshay. Inventive, inclusive, inspiring. A real idea man who is out to make the world a better and kinder place.
As one would imagine, Akshay had his pick of top universities he could attend. He’s chosen Stanford University where he’ll focus on product design and business with a goal of creating and marketing innovations that improve lives. And he’ll play music.
FOX 4 News is Working 4 You to spotlight outstanding young people and their positive accomplishments. In our weekly report called Reaching 4 Excellence we meet young achievers in subjects like academics, the arts, leadership, community service, volunteerism, career exploration, overcoming obstacles and heroism. Watch for Reaching 4 Excellence every Wednesday on FOX 4 News at 9 p.m. and every Thursday on FOX 4 News at 8 a.m. and noon.