ROD GUAJARDO / The Natchez Democrat — Morgantown Middle School eighth-grade students Ta’Kirrya O’Neal, left, and Adriyonna Bruce are among four students from the school who will travel to New York City next spring as part of the Honors Performance Series at Carnegie Hall. The students will spend four days in the Big Apple, which will culminate with a performance for officials from collegiate and professional music programs.
ROD GUAJARDO / The Natchez Democrat — Morgantown Middle School eighth-grade students Ta’Kirrya O’Neal, left, and Adriyonna Bruce are among four students from the school who will travel to New York City next spring as part of the Honors Performance Series at Carnegie Hall. The students will spend four days in the Big Apple, which will culminate with a performance for officials from collegiate and professional music programs.

Archived Story

Bright Future: Morgantown students invited to play at Carnegie Hall

Published 12:03am Wednesday, April 16, 2014

NATCHEZ — Ta’Kirrya O’Neal and Adriyonna Bruce did the one thing necessary to get to Carnegie Hall — practice.

The two Morgantown Middle School eighth-grade students will travel to New York City next spring as part of the Honors Performance Series at Carnegie Hall.

The program brings together music students from across the country to rehearse and perform under master conductors and have the opportunity to perform for invited officials from collegiate and professional music programs.

Morgantown strings and general music teacher Shawn Smith said the students were chosen to participate in the program after he sent in a video of the young musicians playing the overture to “La Gazza Ladra,” which is a famous opera written by Gioachino Rossini.

“That’s an advanced piece they learned for class, and I sent it in as their audition tape,” Smith said. “They didn’t know that’s what I was sending in the tape for, but they were excited and pumped when they found out.”

The students, who Smith said are among the top in their class, will travel to NYC for four days and get to experience the city by attending a Broadway show and seeing the sights.

O’Neal, who has been playing the cello since the fifth grade, said she didn’t know much about Carnegie Hall before Smith announced they had been selected to participate in the program.

“I had to go online and look up a bunch of stuff about it,” O’Neal said. “I saw some pictures of it and found out it’s a big thing to play there if you’re a musician.”

O’Neal began playing in the strings program after wanting to do something different than the marching band, which most of her peers had selected.

“I’ve always loved music, and the strings just seemed so different,” the 13-year-old said. “Everyone was choosing band, and I wanted to be different so I went with the orchestra instead.”

Bruce decided to pick up a violin two years ago after seeing a video clip of a musician playing the instrument.

“I liked the way it sounded and it looked, so I started playing,” Bruce said. “Learning all the notes was the hardest thing.”

Bruce said she also didn’t know much about Carnegie Hall, but is excited about the opportunity to play in the same place where famous musicians have played.

“This will be my first time in New York, too,” Bruce said. “I’m really excited.”

The students’ teacher was also quick to offer his take on the importance of playing in the famous performing arts center.

“It’s the premier concert hall in the United States and really one of the premier concert halls in the world,” Smith said. “All of the great players have gone through there, and you really have to play at Carnegie if you want to go to the next level.”

The opportunity, Smith said, will also help the students in a few years when they begin applying for college.

“These students definitely have what it takes to go to the next level, and when they are old enough to start applying for colleges, this is something they’ll be able to put on their application,” Smith said. “Being able to say you’ve performed in Carnegie Hall is something any music school in the country would take notice of.”

O’Neal and Bruce said they were also excited to get to practice and perform with students from across the country.

“It’ll be fun to meet new people and get to play with them,” O’Neal said. “I’m excited.”

Eighth-grade student Jaylan Calhoun and seventh-grade student Jakeria Davis will also travel to participate in the program.