Harlingen students play at Carnegie Hall

HARLINGEN — She’s played her cello in the same hall where Tchaikovsky once performed, along with Yo-Yo Ma, Benny Goodman and George Gershwin.

That’s quite an accomplishment for someone Adanis Guerra’s age.

“It was an amazing experience,” said Adanis, 14, still a little breathless from playing at Carnegie Hall last month. She and four other young musicians from the Harlingen school district performed last month in the prestigious venue. The doorway to such an experience was Carnegie Hall’s Middle School Honors Performance Series.

Four Harlingen middle school students played with that program. Matthew Garcia, a sophomore at the Harlingen School for Health Professions, played with the National Youth Orchestra 2.

The middle school students, which also included Ashley Galvan, Gabriela Garza and Estrella Serna, had to apply and submit a recording of their performance. Only the very elite musicians from across the country were accepted.

The trip was a real eye-opener for Ashley Galvan, a freshman at Harlingen School of Health Professions. She played her violin with the Honors Junior Orchestra.

“It was really exciting,” said Ashley, 14. “I met people from around the world. We got to share ideas on our instruments, what techniques we used. I learned a lot. I was really inspired to see how dedicated they were. They motivated me to do better on my instrument.”

Her fellow musicians told her she was very talented, but she believes they were better.

“They have private tutors and they have more practice time,” she said.

She herself began playing in the sixth grade at Gutierrez Middle School and hopes to continue. However, the experience did more than expand her musical landscape.

“It opened my eyes to new people,” Ashley said.

The middle schoolers were sent the music they were going to play, pieces of a much higher caliber than many of them had every played.

Estrella Serna, 13, spent hours practicing some very difficult music.

“It was all really fast,” said the Gutierrez Middle School 8th grader who played double bass.

“I’m happy that I got to go,” she said. “I think that it really motivated me to push myself even harder with my music.”

All four girls practiced long hours leading up to their performance. Entering Carnegie Hall, however, was an almost hallowed experience as it is for many. Adanis, who will be a freshman at Cano Academy this year, was especially taken by the famous hall. She found herself standing beneath a spacious roof surrounded by elegant red seating at multiple levels.

She described in passionate detail what she felt.

“Wow, I’m on this stage,” she said. “Tchaikovsky, Yo-Yo Ma, all of these amazing players have played here and now you’re like in the place where they stepped.”

As her predecessors — The Beatles, John Philip Sousa, Marian Anderson, Gustav Mahler — lingered nearby, Adanis noticed the beautiful stage. A moment of panic struck as she wondered if she’d be any good, if she’d mess up.

“No, I don’t want to,” she thought. “I don’t want to.”

Once she began playing with the rest of the students, her thinking flowed into the music, and all was well in the world.