Briar Woods Bands to Play Carnegie Hall Festival

The Feb. 19 dream performance in New York City provides an opportunity extended to few musicians.

For many young musicians, performing at Carnegie Hall is a dream never to be achieved. Later this month, however, just such a dream will come true for a group of musically inclined Briar Woods High School students set to participate in the New York Wind and Band Festival in New York City Feb. 19.

Bands perform at the annual festival by invitation only; this year the festival features four high school and two university bands, including two from Briar Woods. The school’s Symphonic Band and Symphonic Winds were chosen from more than 50 schools that were invited to apply for the festival.

“It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to perform in Carnegie Hall, which is considered to be the most prestigious performance hall in the world,” said Briar Woods band director Duane Minnick.

The bands will participate in professional workshops along with schools from Alaska and San Diego, culminating with a competitive performance at the hall.

Each of Briar Woods’ bands is made up of 65 musicians. The Symphonic Winds is primarily made up of seniors and juniors. The Symphonic Band is primarily comprised of freshman and sophomores.

“The younger group will be competing against bands with mostly juniors and seniors,” Minnick said. “That they invited both our bands is really a big compliment.”

This marks the Ashburn high school’s second invitation to perform at the prestigious festival. The band first performed at Carnegie Hall in 2007 and received a Gold Performance Award.

While in New York City, a dinner-dance cruise on the Hudson River, tickets to The Phantom of the Opera on Broadway, a trip to the Museum of Modern Art, and sightseeing all are on the agenda. But performing at Carnegie Hall tops the list.

“I’m excited because Mr. Minnick told us that only 1 in 100,000 musicians ever get to play there,” said freshman trumpet player Mike Rosario.

Senior Will Vinson, a string bass player, agreed.

“Performing there is a big honor,” he said. Not many people experience that, so it’s pretty cool.”

In 2011, the Briar Woods band traveled to Europe and participated in “The London New Year’s Day Parade and Concert Festival,” putting the students on a worldwide stage.

Vinson, who participated in that London trip, said he was even more excited to play at Carnegie Hall because “everyone knows Carnegie Hall.”

Senior Caty Brown, a clarinet player who also performed with the band in London, said the Carnegie Hall performance makes for a good send off.

“It’s a good way to end my high school career,” she said.

Minnick said students push themselves when getting ready for such a big concert.

“I’m very proud of all the kids and how hard they have worked,” he said.

Briar Woods Principal Ed Starzenski shared his pride in the musicians as well.

“We have one of the best bands anywhere,” Starzenski said. “Duane Minnick does an excellent job with the kids and is one of the best directors. It is an honor to be invited to play there.”

Can’t make it to New York in person? Hear the bands perform during a pre-festival concert at 7 p.m. Feb. 13 in the auditorium. The free concert is open to the public.


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