Playing Carnegie Hall

  • Sayville Sophomore Cellist 

    Alex Urmaza Plays Carnegie Hall

    For Alex Urmaza, there was nothing more humbling and “spine-tingling.” Alex had a very exciting opportunity to perform in the New York Pops' Veterans Day Concert for Courage—a grand tribute concert to our armed forces—on November 11 at Carnegie Hall. The Sayville sophomore had been invited to Carnegie Hall to play in the cello section with the full New York Pops Orchestra and the members of The Soldiers' Chorus of the U.S. Army Field Band. The only student selected for the performance, Alex was more than honored to be on stage with this prestigious orchestra and hear the patriotic songs sung by those soldiers who serve our country. 

    Playing at Carnegie was partly happenstance for Alex. Local businessman Chris Quartuccio, owner of Blue Island Oyster Company and family friend, had been aware of an opportunity for a student musician to perform with the New York Pops on Veterans Day,  and  knowing of Alex's music experience, inquired if Alex would be interested. Alex replied, “Of course!” As Alex’s mother Christine Urmaza explained, “Chris recommended Alex's name for this performance opportunity and gave me the name of the New York Pops coordinator to whom to send Alex's music resume.”


    Although opportunity came a-knocking, it was mainly Alex’s reputation for his outstanding musical talent that actually opened the door.  Among the music accolades he submitted to the New York Pops coordinator for consideration, Alex included this year's LISFA Studio Grant, a scholarship awarded to high school students who had participated in the LISFA concert last spring, and his orchestral experience through his Sayville school orchestras, All-County and LISFA Music Festivals, and Children's Orchestra Society.  Then Alex waited for their response. 


    “I received an email in September saying that Alex would be getting the music to perform on Veterans Day," said Christine Urmaza. "This opportunity was not a formal competition. I think they based the invitation on his music resume.  He had to prove that he could sit down and play a whole ten-minute professional-level score that he had been given with no trouble.  With only two days of rehearsals in Manhattan with the orchestra and very minimal direction—they had no time to teach him the music—Alex did very well when he played in the live concert. The conductor took him aside after the concert and congratulated him on his good work."


    Having earned his seat for the Veterans Day concert, Alex was introduced as a featured guest by New York Pops conductor Steven Reineke on stage, took his seat with the cello section in the full orchestra, and performed Richard Rodger's classic theme for a World War II TV series called Victory at Sea. Alex admitted to feeling nervous about going on stage before a large audience for his first performance at Carnegie Hall, but he said Steven Reineke was a kind and collaborative conductor who made it all seem great fun; also the members of the orchestra sitting around him made him feel comfortable. “The sweet thing that happened as he left his seat after his performance with them,” Christine Urmaza added, “was the cellists nearest him tapped him with their bows as he walked by them.”


    "Playing alongside these amazing musicians and meeting them back stage to talk with them gave me a sense of what it would be like to a professional cellist,”  said Alex of his unique experience. "I could not have asked for a better way to experience my first performance at Carnegie Hall than with Steven Reineke, the New York Pops, and the Soldiers' Chorus."  

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