Local student musicians learn how to get to Carnegie Hall


The graceful tones of Bach’s Minuet III in G Major echoed Saturday at Jamesport Meeting House, where a dozen young violinists gathered to rehearse for a performance at New York City’s esteemed Carnegie Hall.

“A little better, huh?” instructor Daniel Gladstone of Southold told his students, who murmured in agreement after playing the 18th-century composition a second time.

As May draws to a close, it’s particularly important for these musicians, who range in age from 7 to 19, to perfect their repertoire. In June, they will play alongside nearly 1,000 fellow violinists from across the country at The School for Strings’ 45th anniversary concert.

“It gives the kids an opportunity to play beautiful music with the excitement of being in one of the most venerable concert halls in the world,” said Mr. Gladstone, 68, a School for Strings alumnus.

Mr. Gladstone has played the violin nearly all his life and given lessons for the past 35 years. In late 2015, he extended an invitation to all 40 of his local students to perform at the concert, which is held at Carnegie Hall every five years and is open to the pupils of those who have trained at The School for Strings.

“I thought it was going to be a great opportunity to visit such a wonderful musical venue,” said 13-year-old Ben Eager of Riverhead.

But the offer came with a catch. Mr. Gladstone said he told the 17 musicians who accepted the invitation that they would “have to play all their pieces from memory.”

One of those students, Leo Lopez of Hampton Bays, was up for the challenge.

“I know that Carnegie Hall is this famous place where musicians and stuff go and play,” said Leo, a fourth-grader at Hampton Bays Elementary School who began playing violin when he was around 4 years old. “You have to be really, really good to play there.”

At 2 p.m. Saturday, June 11, Leo and his peers will play 17 selections at Carnegie Hall, including the aforementioned Minuet III in G major and the first movement of Bach’s Concerto in A minor.

Students like Aiko Fujita of Southold, who said she’s “nervous and excited” about the concert, are doing their best to prepare for the ambitious set list.

“Some weeks I practice every day, but some weeks I can’t because, like today, I have my dance recital,” she said Saturday.

Juggling school and extracurricular activities isn’t the only challenge posed by the performance. The students interviewed this past weekend agreed that memorizing the songs has been difficult.

But 12-year-old James Robert Fry II of Hampton Bays said Mr. Gladstone makes the process enjoyable.

“He makes funny jokes,” said James Robert, a sixth-grader at Our Lady of the Hamptons. “He kind of entwines them with the songs we’re playing to make us play better.”

Despite the pressure, students like Leo are savoring the opportunity they’ve been given.

“I’m like, ‘Is my life a dream?’ ” he said.

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The following local students will perform in The School for Strings’ 45th anniversary concert at Carnegie Hall in June:

• Victoria Alvarez of Hampton Bays

• Dylan Amerese of Quogue

• Joe Barisic of New Suffolk

• Kate Bohner of Cutchogue

• Jay Chen of Mattituck

• Ben Eager of Riverhead

• Sadie Heston of New Suffolk

• James Robert Fry II of Hampton Bays

• Aiko Fujita of Southold

• Mia Kraus of Southold

• Leo Lopez of Hampton Bays

• Jess McKnight of Southampton

• Robby McKnight of Southampton

• Ella Neese of Southold

• Lauren Schaefer of Calverton

• Camille Valdespino of Southampton

• Emmett Wetter of Southampton