KINGSBURG – When Kingsburg High School’s Wind Ensemble musicians were told they’d be performing at New York’s Carnegie Hall on March 6, they had no way of knowing their trip would be touched by tragedy unfolding thousands of miles away.
The musicians were selected for a performance at the 2018 New York Wind Band Festival earlier this school year and were paired to rehearse with Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School’s Wind Symphony. Since then, a mass shooting took place at that Florida school Feb. 14 where 14 students and three staff members were killed.
Kingsburg’s students said the trip now had a deeper meaning and after a false alarm at their own school Feb. 27 sent them scrambling for cover, they also have a heightened sense of understanding. During a Feb. 26 performance at the Lutheran Church, their thoughts turned to their fellow musicians in Florida.
“I hope they remember all the support we have for them,” junior flute player Tatum Quiroz said. “It’s such a hard thing for them to go through that nobody really understands. We want to be there in any way that we can for them. Hopefully they remember us for that.”
Senior Ian Fjelstrom, a bassoon player, said he hopes this performance can be part of the students’ healing as two members of Stoneman Douglas’ band were among victims of the shooting.
Alex Schachter, 14, was a trombone and baritone player for the Stoneman Douglas Marching Band, while Gina Montalto, 14, was a winter guard member.
“We’ll all get to share our combined passion for music and playing in a concert band. It’s a very connected activity so I hope it will be part of the healing process,” Fjelstrom said.
KHS Band Director Mike Schofield said he was proud of how hard the students have worked to prepare and how supportive his band students are of the Florida school.
“We were pretty much in shock and heart broken,” Schofield said of their initial reaction to the shooting. “Even though we’ve never met them, we know that we will. We already felt a connection to them so our hearts went out to them immediately.”
Kingsburg’s Wind Ensemble students created a banner and took a group picture to send to Stoneman Douglas’ Band Director Alexander Kaminsky, Schofield said.
“He got back to me right away and said ‘thank you very much,’” Schofield said.
For their last home-town performance before the trip, Randy McFarland shared the history of Carnegie Hall and the musicians performed “The Redwoods,” by Rossano Gallanted, “Pacem, A Hymn for Peace” by Robert Spittal and “Prelude, Siciliano and Rondo” by Malcolm Arnold.
The evening included a social afterwards where KHS Music Boosters sold personal pies and supporters chatted with the musicians.
“I handed these pieces out in November as soon as we were done with marching band,” Schofield said of the musical selections. “It’s not that long ago that we put this program together and they just ate it up and said, ‘let’s do it.’ I’m not nervous at all because I know that they’re prepared.”
Kingsburg’s students had a combined rehearsal with the Stoneman Douglas musicians where sections sat together, performed each other’s songs and then played together in one large, combined band. During the actual performance, they supported each other while in the audience, Schofield said.
Of the six high schools to perform that night, three were from California. Two university ensembles were the showcase for the concert.
Fjelstrom said he was looking forward to this once-in-a-lifetime experience.
“I just love music, being part of this band and contributing to making beautiful music. I’ll remember this forever. We’ve put a lot of work into this, and we’re especially thankful for all the community support.”
Quiroz said while her nerves have subsided for now, the focus of the entire trip shifted to one of healing and made the trip that much more memorable.
“We had this same excitement and it was a very sad feeling knowing that was taken from them. It definitely had our focus on the trip have such a different meaning. Now, it means so much more than just performing. Getting to connect with them is really an amazing experience.”
While in New York, the KHS musicians were also scheduled to take part in a clinic with James McRoy from Long Island University the day before their performance. They were also scheduled to take in the Broadway musical “Wicked” and tour Ground Zero, the Statue of Liberty and the Empire State building. They were also scheduled to sightsee in Times Square during their stay in the Big Apple.
“I hope they make a lot of great memories that they’ll hold on to for the rest of their lives,” Schofield said. “I hope they have the performance they’ve been working for. They’re ready.”