Isabella DeHerdt: Unapologetically Myself
Emily Weir

Isabella DeHerdt arrived at NMH rocking red combat boots. Determined, she says, to be “unapologetically myself,” she also secretly wondered whether she would fit in. Four years later, she says, “You’ll always find a place here as long as you just be yourself.”
At age 4, Isabella started playing violin. At 8, she was taking vocal and guitar lessons. At 11, she started the indie trio Kalliope Jones, in which she sings and plays guitar. Her passion for music was clear and deep. “One of the reasons I came here was because of the Rhodes Arts Center’s state-of-the-art facilities,” she recalls. 
Another reason was Sheila Heffernon, head of the performing arts department, who became her mentor. “She taught me to be confident as a student, a musician, and a woman,” Isabella says. “She showed me what you can accomplish when you work hard at what you love.” 
“NMH teachers care so much about what they’re teaching,” she adds. “No one is mailing it in. They enjoy the material and they want to pass along that knowledge.” Students also benefit from the 80-minute college-model classes that, Isabella says, “make it easier to go into depth and focus on what you’re studying.”
As her vocal ability and musical knowledge developed, Isabella gained experience by singing in three musical theater productions and virtually every school vocal ensemble, performing in rock concerts and basketball halftime shows alike. Last summer, at Symphony Hall in Boston, she performed an original composition backed by the Boston Pops, the grand prize in a state-wide competition. 
She’s planning to be a music major at Wellesley College and to pursue a career as a professional musician. “I’m ready to go to college knowing what my strengths and weaknesses are,” she says. “I’m ready to take the next step.”
On Commencement day, Isabella will take that step in the same red combat boots she wore her first day at NMH. Isabella’s learned it’s possible to fit in here and stand out. — By Emily Weir