When Pitman High School senior and piccolo player Aileen Ayala originally joined band in the fourth grade, she had no idea that eight years later she would be preparing to perform at Carnegie Hall in New York.
“I’m pretty sure I jumped up and down in excitement when I found out,” said Ayala. “I’m really honored and proud to get the chance to perform on the same stage as countless other talented musicians.”
As part of the PHS Wind Ensemble, Ayala and nearly 50 other band members found out earlier this year that they were selected to perform at the National Invitational Band and Orchestra Festival at New York’s Carnegie Hall in March.
“This is an once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for a bunch of students from a small town like Turlock,” said Ayala. “We are able to do something that a lot of kids don’t get to.
“I’ll be practicing a lot to feel worthy of playing on that stage,” continued Ayala.
PHS junior and clarinet player Claudio DeSousa said that he first found out about the band’s invitation to Carnegie Hall when he caught a glimpse of the acceptance letter on director Ruben Modesto’s stand.
“I took a picture of the form and kept re-reading it,” said DeSousa. “I just couldn’t believe it.”
Since then, DeSousa said that the band has been busy hosting numerous fundraisers to meet their goal of $120,000 to help pay for the upcoming trip. Band members have sold pies and Jamba Juice gift cards, as well as hosted a drive-thru dinner with Las Casuelas Mexican Restaurant. They have also raised money through fundraising collaborations with Panda Express, Chipotle and Yogurt Mill.
In the days leading up to the big event, DeSousa said that he and the Wind Ensemble will be “stepping it up.”
“It’s just such an honor that people are willing to work for it,” said DeSousa. “I can’t wait to be able to say that I played in Carnegie Hall—especially coming from Turlock.
Modesto said that in order to qualify to audition for the National Invitational Band and Orchestra Festival at Carnegie Hall, the Wind Ensemble first had to score well at previous festivals and then send in an audition recording.
“This just means that all of the hard work they’ve been putting in has paid off,” said Modesto. “I’m never amazed by what these kids are capable of.”
Although only 47 students in Wind Ensemble were selected to perform, Modesto said that approximately 50 additional band students will be traveling to New York to cheer them on from the auditorium seats.
“They understand that they’re not going to perform, but there was no reason we couldn’t see who else wanted to go,” said Modesto.
Modesto said that in addition to their performance on March 25, the Wind Ensemble and other band members will have time to see Disney's "ALADDIN" on Broadway, tour the Statue of Liberty, visit the national Sept. 11 Memorial & Museum, check out Times Square and Rockefeller Center, and explore the Empire State Building.
With an estimated total cost for the trip at over $300,000, Modesto said that every little bit from the community helps, whether it is through becoming a sponsor, making a tax-deductible donation via PayPal or attending one of the band’s numerous fundraisers.
“I believe we should give these students as many opportunities as possible,” said Modesto. “We don’t know what will spark the interest in a student or motivate them. We want to help them decide what they want to do—not just with music, but in general.”
For more information on fundraising opportunities, visit pitmanhighbands.com or facebook.com/pitmanbands.