2023 Students of Distinction

Ellah Sundell finds inspiration in music

Posted on May 12th, 2023 By:

Gig Harbor Now is posting profiles of each of the Students of Distinction being honored by the Greater Gig Harbor Foundation. The students will be honored during a banquet from 6 to 9 p.m. Wednesday, May 17, 2023, at Ocean5, 5268 Point Fosdick Dr.

Student: Ellah Sundell

School: Gig Harbor High School

Category: Music, Art & Drama

Ellah Sundall’s love of music has already taken her around the world. She started playing piano when she was just 5 years old and has performed in countless recitals, small string ensembles and as a soloist with an orchestra. She plays advanced pieces by Chopin and Prokofiev.

“Music is so important. It’s such a great way to express myself,” she said. “And if I’ve had a stressful day, I can sit down and play a few pieces and the tension seems to just melt away.”

She’s also a long-time member of Spectrum Choral Academy, starting as an 8-year old in the children’s choir and now singing with the Academy’s select ensemble group. She has sung in the annual Fort Worden Children’s Choir Festival in Port Townsend with choirs from around the world. And in 2018 her group toured to England and Scotland.

Now she’s also a mentor for the children’s choir, helping the youngsters learn their parts, read music and do music theory.

Ellah Sundell

Classroom achievements

In addition to her musical activities, Ellah excels academically. She has taken a variety of AP courses, is a GHECO club member and is active in the GHHS Interact Club. The latter earned her a Distinguished Service Citation from Rotary International.

Her favorite high school experiences have been meeting new people and taking new classes.

“I like to learn new things and explore new ideas,” she said. She’s especially proud of all that she has achieved, learning and sometimes struggling, but always growing. “Like with piano. Sometimes it’s hard, but eventually I just did it.”

Her biggest challenges came during the pandemic. “I really dislike online classes. And that first year was an especially difficult time because I lost my mom. I missed so many in-person aspects of so many things that I enjoyed. I was really excited to get back to in-person school,” she said.

Stephanie Charbonneau, artistic director of Spectrum Choral Academy, calls Ellah “an extremely talented and dedicated student, musician and mentor. She has an inner passion for learning which is evident in all she does. She has strong leadership skills and is a role model student who is a joy to work with.”

Figuring out tough problems

Next up for Ellah is Washington State University to study civil engineering. “I’ve loved my math and physics courses,” she said. “It’s fun to figure out tough problems, and you can get a really deep sense of accomplishment working with others. I want to apply what I learn and make a difference to the real world.”

Her advice to younger students as they enter high school: “Don’t be afraid to challenge yourself. High school is a good time to explore your interests and find out how much is too much or too little. And don’t compare yourself to other students. Be yourself.”

Ellah Sundell

Parent: Darrell Sundell

Activities/Accomplishments: AP classes in English language and composition, calculus AB and BC, statistics, physics 1; GHECO Club; Interact Club vice president; second place in Young Artist Competition; Distinguished Service Citation – Rotary International

Favorite teacher: Mr. Helstand. “He was my 3rd grade teacher and he taught me that it is acceptable to make mistakes and how to learn from them. The best teachers teach beyond the subject material. They also teach important life skills that can be applied throughout one’s entire life. When I got a failing grade on a test in third grade, he recognized that I was very upset and explained that mistakes and failures are one of the best ways to learn. And I realized that I didn’t have to be perfect academically to learn and succeed. I still remind myself that mistakes are necessary to learn, and I appreciate Mr. Helstand for teaching me that skill.”

Best thing about GHHS: “High school is a place and time for new opportunities and experiences and becoming the person that you want to be. GHHS gives us the opportunity to do all those things, especially because of the wonderful staff and teachers who have been amazing and supportive, even during COVID. They have been welcoming and encouraging. Without them I would not be as academically successful as I am today.”