Grand Ledge Winds Symphony Heads To Carnegie Hall

Mara Thompson

The Grand Ledge High School Winds Symphony will perform at the National Youth Concert in Carnegie Hall on March 15.

Carnegie Hall is known as one of the most prestigious concert halls for both classical and contemporary music; since it’s opening in 1891 musicians including The Beatles have performed there. This spring, The Boston Symphony Orchestra, Jay-Z, and Citizen Cope will perform as well as the National Youth Concert.

The National Youth Concert will consist of performances by Grand Ledge High School Winds Symphony, St. Charles East Wind Ensemble, and Lockport Township High School Winds Symphony.

Grand Ledge High School Winds Symphony is among the best in the state and has experienced performing in venues outside of their own auditorium. Yet, band director Christopher Blackmer said heading to New York City to perform at Carnegie Hall for a National Youth Concert is a first for the winds symphony.

“People tend to make a big deal out of performing in Carnegie Hall – and for good reason – it’s a great space to perform,” Blackmer said. “I also think it’s a great opportunity for the Wind Symphony students to undertake a significant performance away from home.”

Blackmer said having the wind symphony perform at Carnegie Hall has been a goal of his for years, and this year it was made possible after the students passed the audition process.

“New York City is one of our ‘great cities of the world,’ and this experience is one that many may never have again in their lifetime,” Blackmer said.

He also said the students would be getting a chance to get to know member of the New York Philharmonic.

“In addition to hearing a performance of the New York Philharmonic … students will also have a two hour ‘master class’ with members of that prestigious orchestra,” Blackmer said.

All 60 of his students in the Winds Symphony will be going, along with 18 parents who will be chaperones on the trip, said Blackmer.

Parent and chaperone, Jackie Boyd, said she thought it was a joke when a year ago Blackmer said the symphony would be performing in Carnegie Hall this March.

“I was basically in shock,” Boyd said. “But I signed up to chaperone at the first available opportunity. I wouldn’t miss it.”

Her daughter, senior French horn player, Jessie Boyd, said she could not believe the news either.

“It was a huge surprise,” Jessie Boyd said. “We’re from such a small town that it just seemed unreal.”

Boyd said she is looking forward to the acoustics of Carnegie Hall, but she is also nervous about perfecting something they have been rehearsing for such a long time.

“Compared to our auditorium at Grand Ledge High School, Carnegie Hall seats so many more people in the audience, plus it is very different acoustically,” Jessie Boyd said. “Historically, so many amazing groups and musicians have performed there, so the professional atmosphere will be exhilarating.”

Jackie Boyd said she does not have any concerns about this opportunity because the symphony has mature, well-rehearsed and proficient musicians.

“As a musician, I have performed at several national conferences but, in my opinion, none compare to the thrill of Carnegie Hall,” Jackie Boyd. “I am so proud of my daughter … and the entire Grand Ledge Wind Symphony.”