The Santa Monica High School wind ensemble wasn’t going to turn down a chance to play at one of the most prestigious venues in the country.
Performing as a headlining group? In the New York Sounds of Spring International Music Festival?
At world-famous Carnegie Hall, of all places?
“Just the name itself is synonymous with classical music,” Samohi band director Kevin McKeown said. “It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. It’s probably the premier hall in the United States. Just the history of that hall — everyone in the world knows of it.”
Getting the invitation was one thing, of course, and getting there will be quite another. The cross-country trip this spring will cost about $2,000 per student, McKeown said, and the ensemble is currently raising money to cover expenses for all of its 60-plus members.
One of its biggest fundraising surges is a benefit concert at 7 p.m. Feb. 3 at the Broad Stage, where student musicians will be spotlighted during an evening that will also feature Samohi alumnus Michael Sachs as well as the UCLA wind ensemble.
Sachs, 53, who attended Roosevelt Elementary School and Lincoln Middle School before graduating from Samohi in 1979, is currently the principal trumpeter with the Cleveland Orchestra.
Samohi musicians performed at Chicago Symphony Center two years ago with trumpeter Christopher Martin, who is friends with Sachs. Martin later mentioned to Sachs that he performed with a Samohi ensemble, according to McKeown, which sparked Sachs’ desire to get involved with his alma mater.
Sachs, who studied history at UCLA before attending The Juilliard School in New York, has played around the world during his music career. He also serves as head of the trumpet department at the Cleveland Institute of Music and is regularly involved in music education events.
“I wouldn’t be in the position I’m in if it weren’t for being exposed to music in the Santa Monica school system and having access to the music programs,” Sachs said. “It’s one of those pay-it-forward moments. It’s an opportunity to give back to a place that gave me so much.”
Sachs is scheduled to give a rendition of the Haydn trumpet concerto, the first movement of which he performed as a Samohi senior. He’ll also play the famous trumpet staple April 2 at Carnegie Hall.
“He’s one of the most incredible trumpet players you’ll ever meet,” McKeown said. “He’s coming back to give back to the community. It’s a great cause.”
Next week’s show at the Broad Stage will also welcome guest conductor Angela Woo, the director of instrumental music at John Adams Middle School.
Woo, who studied music performance and education at UCLA, was elected by the California Band Directors Association to conduct last year’s All-State Junior High Concert Band.
UCLA’s wind ensemble will perform after intermission under the direction of conductor Travis Cross and guest conductor Thomas Lee.
The evening will also include a silent auction and complimentary refreshments from the Band Parents Association.
Tickets can be purchased online via www.samohiband.org. They cost $25 for adults and $15 for students.
Proceeds will support Samohi’s upcoming trip to New York, which will include a performance in Central Park, a workshop with New York Philharmonic Orchestra trombonist Joseph Alessi and an outing to a Broadway play production.
And a highly anticipated show at Carnegie Hall, of course.
“I teach two college-level ensembles,” said McKeown, a 1992 alumnus of Samohi. “I never thought it would be a high school ensemble that would give me opportunity to do something so fantastic.”
Photo credit:Courtesy / Dan Caldwell
Contact Jeff Goodman by phone at 310-573-8351, via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter.