Redmond High’s Carnegie kids: Orchestra to perform at prestigious Carnegie Hall

Redmond High School (RHS) orchestra students will perform at New York’s prestigious Carnegie Hall on Sunday, May 24.

Redmond High School (RHS) orchestra students will perform at New York’s prestigious Carnegie Hall on Sunday, May 24.

To provide partial scholarships for some of the students — and to promote Lake Washington School District (LWSD) orchestral music programs — the Redmond Region Orchestra Boosters have organized a benefit concert, “Keep the Music Alive.” Guest artist Geoffrey Castle will take the stage with string players from RHS at 7 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 5 in the RHS Performing Arts Center, 17272 NE 104th St. General admission is $20. Seniors (65+) and children under eight will be admitted free.

Paula C. Ferguson, orchestra director at RHS and Redmond Junior High, said a fellow music teacher from the Issaquah School District had done the Carnegie Hall trip before and recommended that she put her high school students through the audition process. She sent a demo mix of classical and contemporary performances in July and heard in August that the musical Mustangs had made the cut.

They won’t be the only ensemble on the program May 24, but “they thought we were good enough for our own slot,” Ferguson stated.

During their 35 minutes in the spotlight, the RHS students will perform the 1st, 3rd and 5th movements of Holberg Suite by Edvard Grieg; Fantasia on a Theme of Thomas Tallis by Vaughn Williams; and Bacchanale from Samson and Delilah by Camille Saint-Saens.

Of course, the talented teens look forward to sightseeing in New York City. They plan to visit the Empire State Building, take a cruise around the Statue of Liberty and hit some museums or Broadway shows.

Ferguson said she is most excited by “the history behind Carnegie Hall and the fabulous players that have performed there … just to be in that ambiance.”

It’s worth noting that the entire LWSD orchestra program had been scrapped in the 1970s, due to budget cuts. Concerned parents helped to resurrect the program in the ‘90s, hiring private music teachers for early morning classes. It wasn’t until 2000 that orchestra was again taught by full-time district teachers.

When Ferguson came to RHS in 2003-04, the orchestra consisted of nine RHS students and six from Evergreen Junior High. Currently, RHS has two orchestra classes with a total of more than 40 high school students.

In a time when so many people are vying for education dollars, Ferguson is grateful that, “the U.S. government recognizes this as basic education ‚Äî they’ve said we are not a frill.” And she’s glad that the modern-day LWSD embraces music education and encourages young people to participate, not only at the school level but in regional and state music festivals.

To raise money for the journey to Carnegie Hall (about $2,000 per student or chaperone), the RHS orchestra students have set up a chess tournament, wrapped gifts at Borders at Redmond Town Center, sold caramel corn and gourmet fruit and performed in small ensembles at special events such as RedmondLights.

Donations are always welcome or music students can be hired to perform at private parties, said Ferguson.

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