Members of the Kirkwood High School Symphony Orchestra describe trip to Big Apple as a "life-changing" experience
The Kirkwood High School Symphony Orchestra (strings, winds and percussions), under the direction of Patrick Jackson, on stage March 5 at Carnegie Hall.
photo courtesy of David Pokorny.
March 17, 2017
Kirkwood High School Symphony Orchestra members had the experience of a lifetime performing on one of the world's most prestigious stages at Carnegie Hall in New York City.
Kirkwood's Symphony Orchestra was one of three high schools across the country chosen to perform at the Spring Instrumental Music Festival at Carnegie Hall on March 5. It was the first time the full orchestra (strings, wind instruments and percussion) has traveled to Carnegie Hall together. The orchestra previously traveled to New York to perform at the famous music hall in March 2010.
"Performing at Carnegie Hall is a milestone that professional musicians aspire to," said Cynthia Bowermaster, who teaches the elementary strings program in the Kirkwood School District and accompanied the 97-piece orchestra on its recent trip to New York. "For these students to have that opportunity is life changing – a memory they'll always cherish and something they can be proud of their whole lives."
Her daughter and orchestra member Kate Bowermaster couldn't agree more.
"It was life changing – it's something I'll never forget and now I can tell my kids I got to perform at Carnegie Hall," said Kate, a junior at Kirkwood High School who has been playing the violin since the age of 5. "Some professionals never even get that chance, so getting to experience that at only 17 years old was amazing."
The orchestra's performance at Carnegie Hall also caps an important milestone for conductor and director Patrick Jackson, who is retiring at the end of the school year.
"I knew before I retired I wanted to bring a full symphony orchestra to New York, and this is one of the finest orchestras I've conducted at Kirkwood in the 26 years I've been here," he said. "I was beyond pleased with the kids and how they played. This is ending on the highest note possible – no other teacher could imagine performing at Carnegie Hall and then getting the reception from the audience piece after piece like we did. I will never forget that."
Jackson was referring to the overwhelming applause and multiple standing ovations the orchestra received from the audience – not only after, but during the performance.
"After we played the first piece, half of the audience gave a standing ovation. After the second piece, I turned around and everybody was standing up. I've never seen an audience react like that, ever," he said.
"I knew before I retired I wanted to bring a full symphony orchestra to New York, and this is one of the finest orchestras I've conducted at Kirkwood in the 26 years I've been here."
— Patrick Jackson
Jackson said the orchestra received standing ovations and applause after playing its third and fourth pieces as well.
"I've just never seen that kind of an audience response, and to have it at Carnegie Hall ..." Jackson said.
The conductor still has trouble finding words for just how much the experience meant. Cynthia Bowermaster echoed that sentiment.
"The audience's excitement and the standing ovations were amazing," she said. "It was really exciting for me to be there watching as a parent, but also as a teacher because I'm so proud of all the students who have come up through the (orchestra) program."
Most started orchestra classes in fourth grade, but many also take private lessons and practice individually.
Nearly 100 band and orchestra students, and several teacher and parent chaperones, flew to New York, attended a Broadway show, visited the Statue of Liberty, the 9/11 Memorial and Museum, and toured the city in addition to performing at Carnegie Hall during the three-day trip. The expenses were paid for through student fundraising and payments from parents, Jackson said.
Of course, playing at Carnegie Hall was the highlight of the trip to New York City.
"It left me inspired to work hard not only in music, but whatever I want to do because you see what can happen if you work hard at something," Kate Bowermaster said. "It was an amazing opportunity."
Fellow violinist Charlie Hamilton echoed that sentiment.
"Playing at Carnegie Hall was surreal," said Hamilton, a Kirkwood High School junior who has played the violin for seven years. "It truly is the best hall in the world. It's actually not very imposing when you're on stage, as the hall is pretty small, but the ceilings are high. You can't really tell how great the sound is when you're on stage, but when you listen to it from the audience or on a recording the acoustics are breathtaking."
Notable Events In Carnegie Hall History
Charlie Hamilton, violin, and Torri Weidinger, cello, on stage at Carnegie Hall on March 5. Behind them is Kirkwood High School Symphony Orchestra Director Patrick Jackson.
photo courtesy of David Pokorny.
√ 1891 Andrew Carnegie's new Music Hall opens Andrew Carnegie's new Music Hall opens with a five-day music festival beginning on May 5.
√ 1893 Dvorák's New World Symphony is given its first hearing Dvorák's New World Symphony is given its first hearing on a "public rehearsal" on Dec. 15.
√ 1908 The US Premiere of Mahler's Symphony No. 2, "Resurrection" Gustav Mahler conducts the New York Symphony Orchestra and the Oratorio Society of New York in the US Premiere of his Symphony No. 2, "Resurrection" on Dec. 8.
√ 1917 Jascha Heifetz makes his American debut. The 16-year-old violinist Jascha Heifetz makes his heralded American debut at Carnegie Hall on Oct. 27.
√ 1925 George Gershwin premieres his Concerto in F. George Gershwin performs the world premiere of his own Concerto in F.
√ 1938 Benny Goodman and his orchestra make their Carnegie Hall debut. Benny Goodman and his orchestra make their Carnegie Hall debut on Jan. 16.
√ 1943 Leonard Bernstein makes his Carnegie Hall debut. Leonard Bernstein makes his Carnegie Hall debut on Nov. 14
√ 1964 The Beatles perform two concerts. The Beatles perform two concerts on Feb. 12.
√ 1974 Maria Callas gives her farewell performance. Maria Callas gives her farewell performance on April 15.
√ 1991 Carnegie Hall celebrates its 100th birthday. Beginning on April 25 , Carnegie Hall celebrates its 100th birthday with an 11-day centennial festival.
√ 2017 Kirkwood High School Symphony Orchestra performs. Led by conductor Patrick Jackson, young artists take to the stage on March 5.
• Source: Carnegie Hall Corporation