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Sayville students headed to Carnegie Hall

The Sayville High School wind ensemble rehearses songs

The Sayville High School wind ensemble rehearses songs it is considering for a February performance at Carnegie Hall. (Oct. 13, 2011) Photo Credit: Erin Geismar

Newsday's Erin Geismar is in Sayville all week for our Town Focus series on the community.

Everyone knows how to get to Carnegie Hall, but not everyone ever does.

In fact, it’s a pretty select group.

“Carnegie Hall, that’s the premiere place -- in the U.S. really,” said Pete DeSalvo, director of the wind ensemble at Sayville High School, who added that it has always been his dream to go.

In February, he’s going to get the chance, not as a performer but as a conductor leading the 53 high school students in his wind ensemble, which is even more of a challenge.

“It always means hard work for everybody, myself included,” he said. “But now we have this goal to strive for, maybe just a little added incentive.”

DeSalvo found out a few years ago that there were certain opportunities for high school students to perform at Carnegie Hall, but he was waiting for the right time to submit his students for an invitation. While the band,  which requires students to audition, has always been strong, he said a couple of years ago half of its members graduated. He has been working to build up certain sections ever since.

This year, he has a full band, with strong players in every section.

“The balance this year is just want I want hear,” he said. “This is the perfect year to go.”

DeSalvo said he sent a recording of the band to Carnegie Hall and heard back in September that it was accepted to play during a high school performance night, during which four other schools will also perform. The band will have 20 minutes on stage, rehearsal time earlier in the day and its own dressing room.

The February performance date gives the band plenty of time to practice, practice, practice, which they do in daily rehearsals.

“It’s not until February,” said junior Christa Saracino, of Sayville, who plays the flute. “We’re playing a few songs, thinking about what we’ll be playing and trying everything out.”

Saracino said the impending performance adds “a little bit” of pressure, “but it’s an exciting pressure.”

Senior Kailey Schnurman, of Savyille, plays the bassoon and plans to go to college for music education. She is excited for the “chance of a lifetime” to play on such a famous stage, but also for the level of music they’ll play.

“We have a fuller sound than we’ve had in the past and the music will really show that,” she said.

Schnurman, 17, said the performance will be one she’ll look back on for the rest of her career.

“It’s a really big deal,” she said. “A lot of musicians wait their whole lives for a chance to play there. They go to college for performance and never get a change to play there. So the fact that we get to do it as high school students is really incredible.”

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