For the first time since the trip originated 14 years ago, the Vanguard music department will perform on its own program bill at Carnegie Hall in a primetime Saturday night slot on Saturday, April 27.
The trip involves each ensemble in the Music Department for a concert featuring students, alumni, and a few professionals, according to department chair James Melton.
“When I found out we had Saturday night, which in itself, you could be [any famous musician], it wouldn’t matter. To get a Saturday night at Carnegie Hall is a primo in itself,” Melton said.
Melton saw the trip as the perfect opportunity to boost morale after many of the competitions and trips that required travelling were cut due to reprioritization.
Thanks to donations from a few key alumni, students were able to save an average of $600 each for the cost of the trip. Between one half and two thirds of each ensemble will be able to go to New York to perform.
“We have a lot of student and parents who can’t sacrifice $1,200 to send their kids on a once-in-a-lifetime trip. But we really worked hard,” Melton said.
With the struggles of reprioritization, Melton said he began planning this trip since last May with the hopes it would be a moral-boost for his students. The invitation of alumni and other professionals was to help create a more robust repertoire as well as give others the same experience of performing at Carnegie Hall.
It takes at least 150 people to rent the hall, so this is the first time another high school or college was not joining because Vanguard could make the quota with their own students and guests. Melton explained that his singing group, The Choral Choir, will have some musicians that will help increase numbers.
It will also give the guests a great opportunity, according to Melton, because many of his colleagues are Vanguard alumni who have never performed at Carnegie, though some are successful musicians.
This particular trip is special, Melton explained, because Vanguard will perform on its own program. Normally, when production companies invite the school, Vanguard will get 30 minutes within another performance. This can lead to issues with approving singers and pieces. Now, Melton and the staff have complete autonomy.
Equally unique is a regular university being able to perform on its own program. Melton said he has never heard of any school having this opportunity. Not even USC or St. Olaf, both of which are renowned for their musicians, have been able to offer their students this experience.
Senior Aaron Leppke, a vocal performance emphasis and part of the University Concert and Chamber Choirs, still feels singing a solo at Carnegie Hall is surreal.
“But when I walk onto the stage at Carnegie Hall at noon on that Saturday for my sound check, I feel that it will become very real to me. As a musician, so I’ve been told, this is as good as it gets,” Leppke said.
Though he had never considered singing at Carnegie Hall as anything more than a “pipe dream,” he has taken the opportunity in stride since it was offered last fall.
“To me, it signifies that God has some blessing that he needs to give to New York on that Saturday night, maybe even through the words that I sing in my 16 bars of solo,” Leppke said. “Sixteen bars can have a very big impact on a person, truly.”
There was some confusion surrounding the nature of the trip, when students believed they would not be playing on stage, but Melton was eager to dispel the rumors. Though he is uncertain of their origins, he was saddened to hear students believed they would not be performing after the hard work the staff had put in to make it possible.
The decision and process have been hard work, but Melton is thankful for the end result.
“I really prayed through it. I thought, ‘Oh, this is going to be so much work,’ and it is, but we are all getting there,” Melton said.