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Colusa students chosen to play at Carnegie Hall
The Friends of Music are trying to raise $12,000 to help defray the cost of sending four Colusa High students and music director Mike Phenecie to New York. Fundraisers will be held in the near future, but you can also contact the high school to make a tax-deductible donation or for more information, call 458-2156.
Alexia Vargas and Lupita Ramos said there is nothing they can tell Thomas Critchfield and Efren Fuentes to remotely prepare them for how they will feel when they perform at Carnegie Hall on Feb. 10.
Ramos said she was overwhelmed at the rehearsal this past February, and that was not even close to how she felt performance night.
"The moment I really got it was when I actually started playing. It was incredible," Ramos said.
The four Colusa High musicians received word this week that they had been selected to perform from the very competitive audition process that included teens from around the United States, Canada, Europe and parts of Asia.
Mike Phenecie, the Colusa Unified School District music director, said it was the largest audition pool ever, and the talent level was described to him by organizers as the highest ever as well.
The students are not sure whether they will be part of the orchestra or the concert band, but it really does not matter.
That was evident when Critchfield, 16, a sophomore, let out a scream when he read the e-mail that informed him he had made it.
And, he's taking some grief over that.
"When I got the news I was very excited," said Critchfield, adding he did not expect to be selected as a freshman, so he was not upset last year.
Fuentes, 17, a senior, admits he did a bit of screaming as well.
"I still don't believe it," he said at a gathering of the four musicians Thursday afternoon.
He said last year he did not think he had any chance of making it, but once his friends were selected, he said he regretted immediately he did not prepare as well as he might have.
"I wasn't disappointed because I didn't think any of us were going to get in," Fuentes said. "But I was disappointed that I did not try harder ... because I could have gotten in."
And just like last year, the girls had to wait.
They did not get their emails, and instead the next day sat huddled together on the steps leading down to Phenecie's band room office as he called New York.
Finally, it was confirmed: The longtime friends were returning to the Big Apple and one of the most famous musical meccas in the world.
Carnegie Hall's main theater sits 2,804 people.
"I was surprised, again, that I got in," Ramos said.
"I just want to get the music. I want to get started on the music."
Phenecie is not surprised these musicians were selected, and said it has a lot to do with confidence, and each has accomplished so much at the local, regional and state levels.
"They continuously put themselves in high-pressure situations when they have to perform," he said. "They all have command performances."
Ramos plays the oboe; Vargas plays the trumpet; Critchfield plays the tenor saxophone; and Fuentes plays the baritone saxophone.
At least that is what they will play at Carnegie. It is actually a short list of instruments each plays.
The group leaves on Feb. 7. They return on the 11th.
Vargas also has been selected to play in a marching band at the BCS Championship game at the Orange Bowl in Miami on Jan. 7. "When I went there, I didn't know what to expect," Vargas said about her first trip to Carnegie. "What I got was impressed."
She had described it as the greatest experience in her life.
Ramos, 17, and Vargas, 17, both seniors, said they all can expect long, hard rehearsals leading up to the performance.
This past February, Ramos said, she was challenged by what she called the hardest piece of music she has ever played: Strovinsky's Firebird Suite.
For Vargas, it was a folk dance.
The quartet of friends already know what pieces have been selected for the concert band and the orchestra — the basic difference being orchestras have stringed instruments.
The style of music is also different. Each group plays three selections. Once they learn where they have been placed, they will begin practicing here.
And while the rigors of rehearsal and other demands make their time in New York limited, they will have opportunities to do other things.
"I want to get cheese cake," Critchfield said with a smile.
Ramos missed a chance to see the Statue of Liberty on last trip, and hopes to correct that omission this time.
They also will get an opportunity to go see a Broadway musical, and to a person, they hope that selection will be Phantom of the Opera.
The most sobering part of the first trip, the girls said, was visiting Ground Zero.
"Just seeing the names around the fountain was incredible," Ramos said.