Naperville Central band preps for Carnegie Hall performance

Two Naperville Central High School music ensembles are preparing for a trip to New York City later this month, where they will play at two famed venues, including Carnegie Hall.

Director DJ Alstadt said the school's 56-member wind ensemble was invited last year to apply to play at Carnegie.

The group, which is comprised mostly of upperclassmen, will perform the night of March 16 during a National Youth Concert, which also will feature two ensembles from Michigan.

"It's really thrilling to have our kids perform in arguably our nation's, if not the world's, most famous hall," Alstadt said Friday. "For them to walk in and see who has played there, I think, is going to be pretty remarkable. It's going to be a huge accomplishment."

Alstadt said the band program has been building up to this point for many years.

"We're standing on the shoulders of a lot of generations of kids who have come before us," he said. "Our current wind ensemble has done the work, but this didn't just happen overnight. It's really kind of a celebration of that journey."

The school's top jazz band also will be traveling to New York to perform at Jazz Standard, a well-known jazz club, on March 15. The band's performance will include a piece that was part of an album that won a Grammy, Alstadt said.

The soloist in the Grammy-winning album will be meeting with the band. too, which Alstadt said the students are looking forward to.

"I think he'll be very touched on how much this band has done to hold the integrity of the music," Alstadt said.

To prepare, the jazz band has played at the Chicago Jazz Showcase, FitzGerald's Nightclub and other local jazz venues, Alstadt said. The wind ensemble also has put in plenty of extra practices to learn and prepare to play their rigorous repertoire.

"You always want to work hard, but with something like this, it's really pushing everybody to do their best," Alstadt said, adding that each group will play for about 50 minutes, which amounts to about six songs.

All the student musicians will have a chance to hear the New York Philharmonic perform the Saturday before their performances.

The wind ensemble will rehearse with a 2004 Naperville Central grad, Kyle Zerna, who is now a percussionist in the New York Philharmonic, the following day.

"I'm really excited about that," Alstadt said.

Aside from their performances, the students will get a chance to see "STOMP," go to top of Rockefeller Center, take a ferry to the Statue of Liberty and visit the National September 11 Memorial and Museum.

Alstadt says the opportunity to play at Carnegie Hall is "a team effort" that has included support from parents and the administration, as well as the work of elementary and junior high music teachers, private instructors and the music education team at the high school.

"It's a very joyous journey," he said. "It's been a great musical stretch for the kids and it certainly has elevated the work ethic of everyone involved."

The Naperville Central High School Jazz Studio Orchestra will perform at the well-known Jazz Standard club during a trip to New York City later this month. Submitted photo
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