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Some musicians dream about playing in Carnegie Hall their entire lives. For some, the dream could come true, but for the majority, it’s something they can only hope for.
High school seniors Eli Berg and Shannon Burns are two of the lucky ones.
They have been accepted into a prestigious national program, the American High School Honors Performance Series and will get the chance to play at Carnegie Hall in New York in February.
Both Berg and Burns have been members of the Los Alamos High School marching band, as well as the concert band, for all four years of their high school careers. Berg plays euphonium, while Burns plays clarinet. They also play in the Los Alamos Community Winds, under the direction of Ted Vives, who nominated them for the program.
In June, Berg and Burns sent in their audition tapes and found out about their acceptance at the end of October. Their trip to New York will span five days and is scheduled for President’s Day weekend. They will rehearse in NYC and then explore the city when they have free time. At the end of the trip, they and the rest of the group will perform their repertoire to a public audience at Carnegie Hall. Jeffrey Grogoan, the current conductor of the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra will conduct the group.
The duo was part of a group of students from around the country who auditioned for the chance to perform in NYC. About 400 were chosen to perform in a large ensemble. According to Burns, it’s been several years since someone from Los Alamos has been chosen for the performance series.
Burns is excited about performing at Carnegie Hall.
“It’s pretty awesome,” she said. “It’s a little intimidating to try out because you don’t know how you’ll stack up to the other people in the country. We don’t know what chair we are, so I don’t know how I compare to everyone else.”
Though this is the first time Berg has been chosen to perform, it’s not his first nomination.
“I was a first runner-up last year,” he said. “I was really happy I was accepted, but I’d have been more excited if I would have made it the first time. It’s a great opportunity.”
Berg has been taking private lessons from Vives for the past eight years, while Burns has been traveling to Albuquerque for the past two years to take lessons from Keith Lemmons at The University of New Mexico.
Vives said the American High School Honors Band is a wind ensemble made up of the best high school musicians in the nation. Berg’s and Burns’ nominations came as recognition of their outstanding musicianship and service to the Los Alamos Community Winds.
“Eli has been an applied student of mine for seven years and follows Bryant Letellier and Adam Nekimken in being selected for the AHSHB,” Vives said. “He’s been a member of the Los Alamos Community Winds for the past six years and will be the featured soloist on our concert May 14.”
Vives said that in addition to his playing for LACW, Berg has consistently received superior ratings at the district Solo and Ensemble Festival, and for the past two years, he has been selected as the top high school euphonium player at the state of New Mexico All-State Festival.
He also said that Burns has played with LACW for three years and will be one of the featured soloists in the Feb. 26 concert.
“She will perform a tribute to Woody Herman,” Vives said. “In addition to being an outstanding clarinetist, she is also a budding composer who has written a very nice work for band, entitled, ‘Wind Brigade’ that received its premier by the West Texas A&M University concert band in 2007.”
Vives said that both Berg and Burns are outstanding and dedicated musicians.
“They are a testament to the fine work of our local music teachers and especially to their individual hard work and talent,” he said. “The Los Alamos County Winds are proud that they have been part of our organization during their school years.”