CHESHIRE — On Nov. 9, the Cheshire High School girls’ soccer team was excited to play their final home game against North Haven. After recognizing their 13 seniors, the Rams lined up for the opening announcements, but one player was missing from the field.
Up in the press box at Alumni Field, sophomore Ella Crerar was getting ready to show a less publicized talent to her team. With her violin in hand, Crerar played “The Star-Spangled Banner” to a round of applause from the home crowd.
“I was a little nervous because I wanted to do well,” said Crerar, who practiced a few times to prepare for the game. “It was supposed to be a surprise. Once the girls found out the news, they were all excited to hear me.”
Crerar offered to play as a way to recognize her senior teammates. After her performance, she returned to the field to help the Rams earn a 7-0 victory.
“It felt really good to congratulate them on their four years with the team,” Crerar said. “It felt like a gift that I was giving them.”
While having a busy schedule, Crerar sets time aside to work on her skills as a varsity soccer player and violinist.
“When I was younger, managing them was easier because I had more of my parents’ guidance and it wasn’t as competitive,” reflected Crerar.
While she has often practiced music by herself, Crerar also loves the camaraderie of playing soccer with her friends.
“It has always been an escape for me,” Crerar said. “It is such a rush to win with your team.”
She began learning the violin at age 4 with Wendy Sharp, an assistant professor at the School of Music at Yale University.
“My mom got me started in it because I couldn’t make decisions for myself at that point. I loved it right away,” recalled Crerar.
After a year of learning the fundamental skills, she started doing student recitals every month in a studio.
“I like the feeling I get when I perform,” said Crerar. “There is a rush of happiness that comes over me. When I’m done playing, people clap, so they are happy, too.”
Because some pieces are longer and harder than others, she feels that it typically takes her one to three months to learn to play a song on her violin.
“I like putting a lot of work into it and then seeing the result,” Crerar said.
Crerar has been encouraged to share her gift with family at events.
“They love when I play “Hallelujah” by Leonard Cohen,” Crerar said. “My favorite song is “Sonata in G minor” by Henry Eccles.”
Prior to the coronavirus pandemic, she traveled for multiple performances. For four years during the summer, she was selected to participate in the Elm City ChamberFest in New Haven. Started in 2005, the two-week program aims to develop intermediate to advanced string and piano students ages 8 to 18.
“You audition in the winter and then get to work with teachers from all over the country. We practice all day and perform on Fridays,” said Crerar. “I’ve played with some accomplished instructors. It is good to know that they are proud of me.”
At Cheshire High, Crerar has also played with other high school orchestra students in the Connecticut Music Educators Association program. Participants audition for spots in the regional and festival events.
“I had been playing in that since seventh grade, but didn’t do it this year because of the virus and having a busy schedule,” explained Crerar.
While Crerar was recognized for violin at a young age, her soccer career has been a story of persistence. After starting out as an outside mid-fielder, she has settled into the role of an outside and center back on defense.
“I wasn’t always good at soccer. When I picked up the game, I just did it because my friends were playing. But in sixth grade, I started getting better athletically,” explained Crerar.
The summer before her freshman year at CHS, Crerar considered giving up violin to focus on soccer.
“I thought that this is a hobby, but do I want to go anywhere with it? In talking to my teacher, she made me realize that just because I didn’t want to play (violin) professionally, it didn’t mean that I had to stop playing,” Crerar said. “I’m happy that I stuck with it. Everybody goes through times like that when they question themselves.”
Along with playing violin last year, Crerar made strides as a soccer player, earning a starting spot at the end of her freshman season at CHS.
“It felt really good,” stated Crerar. “I never expected to play varsity and didn’t think that I would get playing time even when I got called up during the season.”
In 2019, Cheshire posted a 14-4-2 record, going unbeaten in the Housatonic Division and qualifying for the Southern Connecticut Conference and Class LL tournaments.
Due to the pandemic this year, Crerar and her teammates dealt with safety protocols such as wearing masks on the sideline. After dealing with interruptions in the pre-season, the Rams were able to start playing games in October.
“It was definitely hard to not be able to compete right away this year, but coaches Kylee (McIntosh) and Eric (Rothbart) handled it really well,” Crerar said.
As a sophomore, Crerar played defensively with seniors Danielle Ellis, Izzy Pellegrino, and Aish Benzy.
“I felt more comfortable because I got to play with the varsity girls from the beginning of the year,” Crerar said. “ Since we couldn’t play until later in the season, I think we jelled together.”
Despite a shortened season, CHS developed chemistry in the regular season and reeled off a three-game win streak into the SCC Division A Tournament. The Rams reached the title game, but came up just short in a 1-0 loss to Mercy and finished with an 8-4 record.
“I was pretty surprised that we got a season and a tournament,” reflected Crerar. “A lot of college teams weren’t able to do that this year.”
Crerar is part of a deep sophomore class that has played a key role in Cheshire’s recent success.
“I love playing with the girls my age on varsity and JV (junior varsity),” stated Crerar. “They are all really good athletes and can’t wait for when we are all on the same team together.”
While happy to join her friends as an upperclassman next fall, Crerar is sad that she will say goodbye to her 13 senior teammates.
In being the youngest member of a veteran defense in the last two years, she credits players like Ellis for mentoring her on and off the field. Ellis captained the 2020 Rams with Benzy and senior goalkeeper Seymone Rosenberg.
“Dani has helped me so much,” said Crerar. “She is so consistent and reliable.”
Along with representing CHS on the field, Crerar also plays violin in the high school orchestra. Under the tutelage of Music Department Chairperson John Kuhner, students practice in class and then play in winter and spring performances.
“This year, we are recording pieces for the winter show and then the teacher will put them together,” Crerar said.
She currently tries to play five to seven times a week. Due to the pandemic, her private lesson and monthly recitals have been moved to Zoom.
For community service, Crerar also likes to share her music at places like Elim Park and Smilow Cancer Center in New Haven.
“Even to this day, I still get nervous,” Crerar said. “Performing gets easier as you move on.”
She wants to play collegiate soccer, but still plans to take her violin along for the journey.
“I see myself playing with an orchestra or small group in college,” Crerar said.