Four Culver Academies music students recently returned from a four-day whirlwind trip to New York which included rehearsing and performing at Carnegie Hall.
Vocalists Alexandra Jeffirs ’15 (Plymouth, Ind.) and Mary McKinnis ’13 (Culver), violaist Matthew Moody ’14 (Spring, Texas) and clarinetist Joy Shen ’13 (Oviedo, Fla.) performed as part of the American High School Honors Performance Series. They were nominated, auditioned, and selected from students across the United States. Their participation was sponsored, in part, by Culver’s Artistic Fund, established by Mr. and Mrs. Paul Gignilliat ’49.
Moody said it was an “absolutely touching and thrilling experience to be surrounded by, and play with, a full orchestra of immensely talented musicians. The moment you walk out onto the stage at Carnegie Hall and look out into the full crowd in indescribable. This trip was definitely the chance of a lifetime.”
“Carnegie Hall was an incredible building, not just aesthetically but also acoustically,” Shen said. “It was incredible to be a part of an ensemble of 100 some high-school students that sounded as close to professional as I’ve ever heard.”
“I enjoyed being completely immersed in the music, surrounded by equally passionate students,” McKinnis said. She added that “sharing a performance in Carnegie Hall with three other Culver students” added to experience.
“Getting to work with talented kids from all over the country was a great experience,” Jeffirs added, “but seeing the professionals really showed me how it’s done.”
The students arrived in New York just ahead of the huge winter storm that hit the northeast on Feb. 7. Along with their rehearsals and the performance on Sunday, Feb. 10, the weekend included a music seminar with an industry professional, attending a performance of Wicked and sightseeing in Manhattan.
“I think the Broadway show was a great way to get excited about the New York experience,” Shen said. “It changed my opinion on musicals as a whole. I’m now officially converted.”
Jeffirs got the added benefit of using part of the New York trip to help her in her speech competition piece.
“My duo speech piece this year was based upon the play Wicked,” Jeffirs said. “Imagine my excitement when I got to see the show on Broadway for the first time!
“Every student invited on the trip chose one of three plays and Wicked was my first choice. Lo and behold, I got it! The portrayal of Glinda in the Broadway show opened my eyes to new interpretations of the Glinda in my speech piece.”
Previous Culver students selected to perform at Carnegie were vocalists Katrina Weil ’13 (Cary, Ill.), and Callie Wilkinson ’11, a sophomore at the University of Michigan.