Many college music students dream of the chance to play on the legendary stage of Lincoln Center, but a few lucky North Bergen teens got the opportunity last month before graduating from North Bergen High School.
On March 30 North Bergen High School’s Advanced Chorus and Wind Ensemble performed on the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts’ famed Avery Fisher Hall stage as part of America’s Youth in Concert, an educational performance division of Perform America. Every year high school bands and choruses from throughout the Tri-State area are invited to perform as part of the program.
North Bergen High School was asked to submit a recording. Five weeks prior to the event, they were told they were chosen.
Avery Fischer Hall is the home of the New York Philharmonic and has hosted famous performances including those conducted by Leonard Bernstein, a famous American conductor, composer, author, and former music director of the Philharmonic.
“Being on stage was phenomenal.” — Sasha Ordonez
Learning about the greats
North Bergen Choral Director Jennifer Penton, along with Co-Band Director Michael Connor, said they were initially overwhelmed.
“For me it was amazing, it really was, to be able to conduct on the same stage as Leonard Bernstein and all the famous conductors and musicians,” said Penton. “The kids, when they saw and looked out into Lincoln Center, the singing just went to another level.”
Connor agreed and said that “it was probably the best performance I’ve been a part of in a very long time” and said that his students “played amazingly.”
While their directors may have known of how historic Lincoln Center was, many of the students didn’t know much about the lore behind their fascination until preparing for their performance. Many said that the experience allowed them to learn about the history of music.
“I never knew anything about it; then I just remembered that ‘Black Swan’ was filmed there,” said Jesus Magalhaes, a senior in advanced chorus. “I just fell in love with the area. It was such a beautiful experience to go, and then the stage!”
Seniors Sarah deMarchena and Sasha Ordonez, also members of the chorus, admitted they knew little of the stage, but when they learned of the prestige they were amazed at what an opportunity they had been given.
With that knowledge, the students admitted to be “wracked with nerves” before their performance, but said that the stress subsided as they performed.
“Being on stage was phenomenal,” said Ordonez.
‘Once in a lifetime’
Students are still reeling from the experience.
“It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience,” said junior Melissa Osorio, a clarinet player. “I was very nervous. It is one of the greatest stages. Leonard Bernstein conducted there. I couldn’t believe I was playing there as a high school student.”
Osorio said that their school caught the audiences’ attention.
District Supervisor of Music, Art, and Home Economics George Haviland said that North Bergen High School was the only school to watch all of the other school’s performances.
“To date, having the advanced chorus and the wind ensemble perform at Lincoln Center probably is the department’s greatest accomplishment since I’ve taken over the department as supervisor,” said Haviland.
Tricia Tirella may be reached at TriciaT@hudsonreporter.com.