Sophomore continues to push musical talent

HARLINGEN — Try comparing a day care to a Fortune 500 company.

Doesn’t quite work?

Probably not. But that’s how Matthew Garcia compared his Carnegie Hall experience this summer to that of the two previous summers.

“There’s a huge significant gap between the playing,” said Matthew, 15, a sophomore at Harlingen School of Health Professions. Matthew, an aspiring physician, began playing viola only three years ago. However, two years ago he performed with the Middle School Honors Performance Series at Carnegie. He performed with the same program last summer and was a featured soloist.

This year, however, he performed with the National Youth Orchestra 2.

“The previous trips were obviously a good start to help me realize I was growing in potential as a musician,” Matthew said.

However, performing this year with NYO2 set the bar significantly higher, compelling him to push his musical talent further than ever.

Of course, playing with such a caliber of musicians — his fellow orchestra performers — helped facilitate that challenge.

“I was shocked at the sheer level of talent there,” he said. “Practically every single instrumentalist could play a concerto, the hardest pieces of music, generally, for the instrument. And we all knew several concertos.”

Matthew may end up the first in a long line of musicians traveling to Carnegie Hall each summer. It started when Olga De Leon, orchestra director at Gutierrez Middle School, nominated Matthew for the Middle School Honors Performance Series.

The program at Carnegie Hall seemed like a faraway dream for Matthew, a seventh-grader at the time.

That dream was suddenly not so far away when he was accepted. It had been a long shot, and it had worked.

“We were really just testing the waters that year,” De Leon said. “It’s Carnegie Hall. It’s such a big deal. It’s hard to believe someone could go that far, but Matthew made it.”

Matthew’s success — he was ranked second among all other viola players — opened the program to others. This summer, four middle school students attended the same program Matthew did.

His success proves something else. Many of the musicians with whom he performed had started at a very young age, whereas Matthew has played for only three years.

“It was kind of eye-opening,” he said. “You don’t have to start at a significantly young age. It’s just a matter of practice, and how much heart you put into it.”