Idaho Arts Charter School Students Reflect on their Performance at Carnegie Hall
What do Billie Holiday, Led Zeppelin, The Beatles and Isaac Stern have in common? New York City’s world-famous music venue, Carnegie Hall. Since 1889, the concert hall has played an integral role in the development of American music. 131 years later, two students from Idaho Arts Charter School (IACS) in Nampa joined the ranks of the Hall’s prestigious performance alumni.
IACS Junior Quinton Kuhn and Senior Corbyn Wind never imagined in their wildest dreams they would have the opportunity to perform at Carnegie Hall, but Idaho Arts Orchestra Teacher Nick Harker nominated these two students for the 2022 High School Honors Performance Series. The Series was established with the goal of “distinguishing talented student musicians in a once-in-a-lifetime performance at Carnegie Hall.”
Harker said the program accepted students from 40 different states and several countries including Bermuda, Guam and South Korea. There were three different ensembles for students to participate in: a string orchestra, a symphony orchestra, and a band.
Kuhn and Wind performed in the string orchestra.
“I nominated those that I thought were up to the challenge. They [Kuhn and Wind] proved through their work in class and in their ensemble,” Harker said. “Even outside of school, the work that they put into music, shows they’re dedicated, hard working, and represent the school well.”
The nomination came as a surprise to Kuhn and Wind. Their subsequent selection was an even bigger one. The day they received the news, they were both playing at a gig for the Electric Rock Orchestra group, a class offered through the school, at the Nampa Farmer’s Market.
“I heard that Corbyn got nominated first… I was hoping that I got in so we could share this moment together,” Kuhn said. When he returned home, his parents delivered the news that he had also been nominated. “Six years of just watching on YouTube of other people performing at Carnegie Hall…it’s just amazing for me, personally, to also perform at Carnegie Hall.”
But their work wasn’t finished – Kuhn and Wind each had roughly a month to prepare an audition video to be considered for the opportunity. Wind said these consisted of playing two assigned excerpts and a third excerpt they chose themselves. Because IACS aims to nurture their students’ love of the arts, it comes as no surprise that both Kuhn and Wind are well-versed in several instruments, including: piano, drums and guitar. But for their audition videos, Kuhn chose the violin, and Wind the string bass.
“I put a lot of time and effort into the audition even though it was a 30-second thing. The audition was pretty difficult,” Wind said. “There were a lot of elements that took a bit of practice.”
For both students, that effort paid off. With bags and instruments in tow, they made the 2,500 mile trip to New York City, accompanied by their orchestra teacher, Nick Harker.
“I just heard a lot of other talented musicians performing at Carnegie Hall, so I always had Carnegie Hall in the back of my mind,” Kuhn said. “When I was able to have this opportunity, I was like ‘man this is really happening.”
Most of their time in New York was spent in rehearsal, practicing within a group of 80 students, who were also chosen to participate in the orchestra. Wind said it was a “big-change” performing in a larger group, compared to the 13 students they play music with regularly at Idaho Arts. His classmate, Kuhn, said it was an absolute privilege to have this experience.
“There are a lot of talented musicians in other states and in the world who performed on this stage. Being a high schooler from Idaho, it was a privilege to be able to perform on a stage with other top tier musicians,” Kuhn said.
The large orchestral ensemble was conducted by musician Jason Seber, the Associate Conductor of the Kansas City Symphony. Harker said they spent 16 hours in a room with this conductor who has a wealth of knowledge. He said working with a conductor with experience at this larger scale was the real learning opportunity of performing at Carnegie Hall.
“That’s where they are going to have those life lessons, and things that they are going to take away after New York. It’s not going to be the performing at Carnegie Hall, even though that’s what they will probably remember — it’s the rehearsals,” Harker said. “That was the really fulfilling part of the trip for the students.”
But Harker also had takeaways from the experience. “For me, as a chaperone, that’s where I was able to get things out of it. How he [Jason Seber] rehearses and how he does things. And being able to absorb that additional knowledge for myself.”
When the house lights dimmed, and the student musicians took to the stage, Wind said in that moment, he was reflecting on all his role models who he watched perform and walk on that very same stage at Carnegie Hall. It was an awe-inspiring moment.
“The best way that I can describe it, is that feeling of like, I’m just at the start of my musical journey and I still have so much to go — but in an optimistic way,” Wind said. “I have so much to do in my future and just starting it. That’s super exciting.”
Representing their small school at a national, historic landmark made the group feel proud.
“These two being a part of it is satisfying. It’s a cool feeling as a teacher. It’s always great to see your kids are succeeding and accomplishing what they want in music — or anything else in life,” Harker said.
But the trip wasn’t all business – they also got to experience seeing the city with their cohort. The organizers of the Performance Series organized a dinner cruise up and down the Hudson River, with an up-close view of the Statue of Liberty. The two students also caught a Broadway show, visited the Rockefeller Center and explored downtown.
Kuhn and Wind are both grateful for their experience and opportunities they receive while attending Idaho Arts. They said Idaho Arts can help students find success in the passion they want to pursue.
Harker agrees with his students, and said the school is a unique place because it has a strong music program.
“I love all the dedication that the students have. It’s a unique school. I went to school in Idaho, and it’s not everywhere that you see this strong of an arts program. I’m unique where I get to teach six different ensembles every single school day. Most schools have a middle school orchestra and a high school orchestra. And that’s it,” Harker said. “I get an opportunity to teach my kids all the way from 6th grade to 12th grade. I get to see them every step of the way. Whereas in a traditional public school system, you’re not working with the middle schoolers as they come up to high school. We get to form a stronger connection and dedicate more to their growth as musicians. We have lots of opportunities that other schools just don’t.”
Idaho Arts Charter School is a Bluum partner school and has received grant support from the J.A. and Kathryn Albertson Family Foundation and from Idaho’s Communities of Excellence federal Charter Schools Program grant.