The old joke says, “How do you get to Carnegie Hall? Practice, practice, practice.” And that’s just what members of the Patrick Henry High School Orchestra did. All that practice paid off when they were invited to perform at Carnegie Hall last month. David Lipps is the orchestra’s director. “We sent in a CD from our last year’s spring concert and several people from across the country did the same thing.” There were approximately 60 other entries and four of those were chosen to perform a concert at Carnegie Hall.
According to Lipps, The Governor’s School of the Performing Arts in Norfolk was the only other Virginia group to be chosen. The others were from Cincinnati and upstate New York. Thirteen chaperones accompanied the 76 musicians from Roanoke to the Big Apple for the four-day trip. The group walked around Times Square, visited Ellis Island, the Statue of Liberty, and Ground Zero. They also saw Spider-man on Broadway. “That was pretty amazing,” he said of the show, adding that seeing Ground Zero had a somber effect on the group.
Another highlight was the concert itself. Lipps says, “It was amazingly great. It felt like you were almost within an instrument. The room itself – the hall – is an instrument. It’s just a joy to work in that every night you play . . . [Everything] is going to be heard and it won’t be forgiving; it will do what you did. But it’s done very elegantly and has such a warm sound. And just the visual impact of it all is absolutely beautiful-a great place to play.”
Now that they’re back home, the next item on the orchestra members’ agenda is a concert at the Jefferson Center May 6th to show off the group to the community. Lipps says Superintendent Dr. Rita Bishop asked the orchestra to perform. “That is pretty stressful in itself and now that we’ve been to Carnegie Hall, we must really be something. And so therefore we have to remain on top of our game to be ready for May 6th.”
But after that concert, some members of the orchestra will go their separate ways following graduation and Lipps is retiring-again- at the end of this school year. He did about a decade ago but came back to direct the orchestra part time. Lipps says he wants to spend more time traveling by sailboat and wants to stay with the school division in some capacity but “not as full time as before.”