Bright Future: Morgantown student to perform at Carnegie Hall

Published 12:06 am Wednesday, May 18, 2016

NATCHEZ — After making sure he gets to see the Statue of Liberty, a Morgantown Arts Academy eighth grader will get a rare honor to play in Carnegie Hall in New York City.

Darren Smith, 14, has been selected for the 2016 Middle School Honors Performance Series at Carnegie Hall, where he will perform as a violinist in late June. Participation in this program is limited to the highest rated middle school performers from across North America.

“That’s really exciting — it’s my first time going to the North,” Smith said. “I’m most excited about meeting the conductor.

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“But it’s all going to be a fun experience.”

While Carnegie Hall is a big stage, Smith said he isn’t nervous.

“I don’t get stage fright,” he said, laughing. “Being able to play in an orchestra will be fun.”

Smith said at Morgantown Arts, there aren’t enough students participating to get the big ensemble experience, even when they get a chance to play with the beginner classes.

“It’ll be great to play with a full orchestra,” he said.

He picked up the violin during fifth grade on the advice of his mother, Delphine Brent. Previously, he’d become interested in music through his older brothers, Zachary and Cornell Brent, who are now 29 and 28.

“At first, I had wanted to play the drums, but my mother, she was tired of that already,” Smith said, laughing. “My brother Zach used to love to beat on the drums, but my mom disliked that.”

After playing the violin, he’d forgotten the drums and was hooked.

“It’s a very unique instrument,” he said. “I like being able to always learn something new. I can always become better than what I am.”

The violin also has the advantage that it helps him academically, he said.

“It keeps me focused,” he said. “Playing a violin is not easy, and it involves a lot of memorization. Doing all that memorization makes it so I can have a better memory for tests.”

Outside of being in Dennis Leoni’s strings class at school, he also took private violin lessons under the direction of David Troutman on Wednesdays. Smith also said he practices an hour every day.

“I practice what we went over in school,” he said. “Right now, I am practicing my music for New York after I finish that.”

Smith said he likes all kinds of music, including hip-hop, techno, dance and calm, relaxing music.

“There are a lot of things about music that I can’t explain,” he said. “It can calm you or make you better. It can make you feel a lot of things, depending on what type of music you are listing to.”

Smith said he cares about keeping his grades up because he wants to go to college one day.

“I have several career ideas,” he said. “Playing violin is No. 1.”

But considering his family background, he’s also attracted to the medical field. His mother is an x-ray technician, his father, George Smith, is a nurse and his uncle, Wayne Smith, is a respiratory therapist.

“My family has a lot of people involved in the medical field,” he said. “I’d also like to become a doctor, but I haven’t decided.”

Leoni said Smith is an excellent student.

“He is very focused and knows what he wants,” he said. “He came on the first day of class and told me he wants to do the New York thing.

“People like him only go up in this world.”

Acceptance into the program is a result of talent, dedication and achievements demonstrated in his application and the audition recording. Smith will join other performers from the United States and Canada.

Honors Performance Series Program Director Nancy Richardson said each junior finalist should be proud of this accomplishment.

“We process thousands of nominations annually, selecting only the most talented performers,” she said in a press release. “Working with these conductors and performing in Carnegie Hall is a once-in-a-lifetime experience that these student musicians never forget.”