“Carnegie Hall, that’s a big experience. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity ... playing on the stage where famous people played because not many people can say they’ve played there before,” Band Captain Rebecca Sullivan said.
The band also will participate in an on-stage clinic with Frank Battisti, director of the wind ensemble at the New England Conservatory.
After performing this spring at Festival Disney in Orlando and placing first in the middle school division, a recording of the band’s performance was sent to a Carnegie Hall committee as a blind audition, meaning the name of the school was not released. The band was then informed they had been selected to perform at Carnegie Hall.
“Last year we spent pretty much the whole year practicing honor band pieces and after Christmas especially [practiced] the Disney festival music,” Band Captain Daniel Jordan said.
Band Director Sheila Smith said the band currently is selling candy as a fundraiser and plans to sell fruit in October. She said while the students work toward their trip’s performance and finances, she hopes the community will be involved as well.
“I know we’re in hard economic times and it’s about $900 a kid but I have a strong booster/parent organization, and at this point, they’re drafting a business letter and hoping to get businesses to maybe sponsor a student or at least help contribute toward the trip,” Smith said.
She said transportation costs for the students, which include two chartered buses, will be about $20,000.
Teaching music for 25 years, Smith said while being invited to Carnegie Hall is an honor for the band and SCMS, the band has a history of traveling to perform in national competitions.
“In 2001, we were one of two middle schools selected to perform at the Midwest Band and Orchestra Conference in Chicago,” Smith said. “It was us and a middle school band from Japan and that was just the pinnacle of my career until [the Carnegie Hall invitation] happened.”
Member and captain Diaza Lewis, who plays clarinet and flute, said her biggest challenge playing with the band has been learning advanced music designed for high school students.
“We have to pick [the music] up quickly because there’s so much coming in,” Lewis said.
Of the approximate 650 students at SCMS, 340 are members of the band.
“I have the best kids in the county — they’re hard-working, they like to be a part of something that’s successful,” Smith said. “For some, it’s all they have.
“... They’re in a family of friends for life, [learn] social skills and just how to be a good citizen on top of the musicality and fun trips.”
Lewis said working with Smith has kept her focused on music, performing with the band since sixth grade.
“She’s such an excellent teacher and breaks [music] down to make it simpler for students,” Lewis said.
For more information on the band and for donations, visit www.scmsband.org or call SCMS at 770-606-5865.