Most musicians can only dream about being able to play at New York’s Carnegie Hall.
For Barrhead Composite High School students Megan Wruk, Grade 12, and Joel Toews, Grade 11, it’s a reality. They will join other musicians for a week in February in New York for the American High School Honors Performance Series. The experience will culminate in a final concert at Carnegie Hall on Feb. 19.
“I’m really, really excited,” said Wruk. “I’m also kind of nervous. I know what instrument I’ll be playing, but I don’t know what the music is.”
Wruk will be playing third clarinet with the Honor Band under the direction of conductor Jeffrey Grogan. The clarinet is an instrument Wruk has been playing for about three years, and it’s an instrument she has fallen in love with. Wruk intends on becoming a band teacher.
Toews auditioned for the series on two different instruments, the French horn and the piano. He was successful with the French horn, and will fill the second position. He will play with the Honors Orchestra under the direction of conductor Charles Peltz.
“I am very excited, and I really look forward to the performance (at Carnegie Hall),” Toews said. “It will be a bit intimidating. I’m also going to audition for a French horn solo once I am there.”
The Grade 11 student has been playing the piano since the age of five, and took up the French horn five years ago, because he thought, “it looked cool.” Now, he said he wouldn’t change it for the world.
“It will be interesting to get the experience of playing with an orchestra, because it’s different than playing with a band,” Toews said, adding although he doesn’t plan to pursue music as a career, he relishes the opportunity to see what it would be like to perform for a living.
The American High School Honors Performance Series was developed to challenge students to perform at their very best as they play and sing for both New York concert-going patrons and specially invited collegiate music program representatives. It is designed to showcase some of the most talented student performers in high schools today.
The majority of the time for Wruk and Toews will be dedicated to rehearsals, but they will also be able to experience the sights and sounds of the Big Apple, including a Broadway production and special recognition on the CBS Early Show.
Wruk and Toews were scouted during the Heritage Festival of Gold in Anaheim, Calif. When they arrived back in Barrhead following that trip, they each received an email informing them they could audition from co-ordinators of the American concert series. They both had to submit a three- to five-minute recording. They also garnered the attention of the series co-ordinators through a recommendation from their former music teacher, Lyle Dewan.
“I checked my email every day,” Toews said. “My parents called me when I was in math class, and I ran out of class to get the call.”
Dewan is a retired music teacher from BCHS, and he has taught both Wruk and Toews in the past. He said they are both very talented young musicians who have worked hard to get where they are, and they deserve this experience.
“Considering the pool from which these students are chosen, it is an honour to have two of our students from Barrhead playing with the best of the best high school instrumentalists,” Dewan said. “It doesn’t get any better than this.”
Both students from Barrhead are required to pay a fee of $1,599 to attend the series, and to cover the cost of airfare to and from New York. Neither Wruk or Toews have ever visited New York, but they will be bringing their parents along for the ride.