How do you get to Carnegie Hall? That’s a question two Bishop Hendricken students, sophomore Ryan Cox and senior Aaron Colaiacomo, have learned to answer. It’s practice, practice, practice.
This fall, both boys were chosen to join 300 other instrumentalists and vocalists in the American High School Honors Performance Series in New York City. In just a few weeks, they’ll be packing up and heading to the Big Apple. The five-day-long trip from Feb. 9 to 13 will culminate in something both of the boys are looking forward to: playing live at the famed Carnegie Hall on Feb. 12.
Cox and Colaiacomo were encouraged to audition this summer by their instrumental teacher at Hendricken, Jarrod Gorman.
The two submitted audition tapes, and got their acceptance letters in the fall.
“I didn’t know what to say or think,” said Cox.
“I was really excited,” said Colaiacomo.
Cox and Colaiacomo are both experienced musicians, despite their young age.
Gorman, said that Cox and Colaiacomo stand out among their peers because of their musical proficiency.
“When you look at both of these guys, they’re far beyond where their peers are,” he said. “They’re definitely beyond the average student. They’re both very self-sufficient. They’re smart, and they know quality.”
Cox has been playing clarinet, which he will play at Carnegie Hall, since the fifth grade. He’s also played the piano since he was four.
His mother, Julie, teaches the string ensemble at Hendricken, and has played the viola since she was 10. She said would play music when she was pregnant with Ryan, and he began humming himself to sleep at nine months.
“We call my husband the groupie because he doesn’t play anything,” said Julie with a laugh. Her sons play musical instruments, and the rest of her family was very musical, too.
“My great-grandfather played the clarinet, like Ryan,” she said. “They buried him with his clarinet because he was so musical.”
When Ryan received his letter on Halloween, the entire family got involved in the celebration.
“I was going door to door with my other kids saying, ‘Ryan’s going to Carnegie Hall!” she said. “He was ecstatic; running all over the house like crazy.”
Ryan and the rest of his siblings have never been to New York City.
“It’s a huge experience for all of us,” said Julie.
Colaiacomo, on the other hand, has been to the city many times. Like Cox, he will be playing the clarinet in NYC, an instrument he began in the fourth grade. When entering Hendricken, Colaiacomo wanted to be a part of the jazz band, but was told he had to play saxophone.
“So I learned how to play,” said Colaiacomo matter-of-factly. He learned the instrument in three weeks. Now he plays multiple woodwinds and the piano.
“That’s all him,” said Colaiacomo’s mother, Nancy, of Aaron’s musical ability. Nancy said she used to be a dancer, but the musical talent is solely her son’s.
Nancy, who has never been to Carnegie Hall, is looking forward to watching her son play.
“We are very excited for him,” she said.
Cox and Colaiacomo will put their musicianship skills to the test with four pieces for their Carnegie Hall debut, one of which is nearly ten minutes long.
“It’s a once in a lifetime experience,” said Cox.
While in New York, the boys will spend most of their time in rehearsals for the Carnegie Hall performance. However, they’ll get to see the sights and sounds of New York, too, including a Broadway show.
Their families will be staying with them for the duration of the trip.
“They’re impressed and proud,” said Cox of his parents.
Both the Cox’s and Colaiacomo’s will be attending the Carnegie Hall concert.
“I don’t want to brag, but, my kid is going to Carnegie Hall!” said Julie Cox. “I’ve been playing for 33 years and never set foot in Carnegie Hall. Music is just who Ryan is.”
Both students are excited to make their debut at one of the nation’s most prestigious concert halls, but they’re looking forward to other aspects of their trip, too.
“I really like when you get a bunch of different people from a bunch of different states together,” said Colaiacomo. “I’ve never been a part of a national group.”
“I’m looking forward to meeting everybody,” said Cox, who has been chatting with students across the country on Facebook that will be joining him in New York. “It will be like catching up with old friends.”