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  • Seth Hahn

Carnegie Hall Experience

In February of 2020, I had the greatest time of my life playing at Carnegie Hall. It stands as the foremost highlight of my high school musical career, and one of the foremost highlights of my life so far.

The journey to get there wasn’t easy though, as I had to dive into a fully digital audition process in the summer of 2019. I chose to audition for an honor group called the Honors Performance Series, or HPS for short, an organization that organizes honor ensembles in prestigious concert halls all over the world like Sydney Opera House, Vienna’s Musikverein, and New York City’s Carnegie Hall, the latter of which I auditioned for. Since HPS received auditions from all over the world, digital auditions were the only way to survey musical talent without requiring all auditiones to travel, even in a time before COVID-19. Alongside completing other application requirements, I began planning my audition: what I would play, where I would record it, and how I would record it were the questions I asked myself. Picking music to play wasn’t a problem, as the HPS had a required etude for applicants to play and left it open to fill the rest of the five-minute minute time slot with whatever displayed one’s musical abilities the best, so I picked one of my favorite pieces of trombone solo literature to fill the time. I decided to record the audition in my living room, where I would use an external microphone to record myself (it wasn’t required to use one but I chose to). I gave myself the goal to record ten viable recordings to send in, a goal that I didn’t realize would kick my butt until later on. It took three days for me to complete all ten recordings, and I learned multiple things from the process: aiming for perfection is unrealistic because something will always go wrong, pushing yourself beyond your limits will only frustrate you, and trusting you can do the the best you can will help you keep a level head. Even after learning all of that along the way, I didn’t feel completely happy with myself until after I had listened to the tenth recording. So I selected that recording to send in and then waited until October to hear if I made it in or not. I was delighted and ecstatic to find out that I was accepted into the HPS Symphony Orchestra that October!

New York was such an incredibly different environment than I had ever been in. Coming from a suburb of a small city in Oklahoma, New York was a massive beast I thought would be too

intimidating to maneuver. But when I got there, the massive skyscrapers, crowds of people, and never-ending street vendors didn’t intimidate me nearly as much as I thought they would. The city seemed like a place for me to conquer and thrive in rather than to surrender and shrink in. I rehearsed in a hotel ballroom a few blocks away from Carnegie Hall, and I was blown away by the talent of the orchestra. They were capable of technical and musical feats that not many I ever knew in Oklahoma were capable of. I was beyond excited that I would be playing on the classical music world’s greatest stage with them. After three days of rehearsal, we made our way to the legendary hall to finally make our mark on the music world. The hall is so much bigger than I could’ve ever imagined; how a concert hall of that size exists in the middle of Manhattan astonishes me. Parts looked like they were made of solid gold, the seats in the audience looked like velvet, but the room itself sounded even greater than the worth of gold and velvet combined. Our concert started with Hector Berlioz’s “Hungarian March'' from The Damnation of Faust, a favorite in the trombone section for its famous trombone feature. The concert then moved on to Steven Bryant’s expressive and nostalgic “Dusk,” a heartful composition of recent. Then we moved on to my favorite piece of the concert, the Finale of Tchaikovsky's Fifth Symphony, an intense but victorious display that, for me, symbolized the hard work and dedication it took for me to get to Carnegie Hall. The concert then concluded with the “Galop” from Kabelevsky’s The

Comedians, a lighthearted and energetic end to our fantastic time on the greatest stage in the world. I couldn’t have been more satisfied with how the performance turned out, and I couldn’t have been more thankful for the opportunity to play with such fine musicians on such a fine stage.

Concert Program

“Hungarian March” from Hector Berlioz’s Damnation of Faust

Steven Bryant’s “Dusk”

Finale of Tchaikovsky's Fifth Symphony

“Galop” from Kabelevsky’s The Comedians


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