“I went up onto that stage, I just looked out into the concert hall [in awe]. It’s massive. It seats 2600 people, so it was insanely large,” he said. “Not only was it large, it was beautiful, and I could just feel the amount of history that was in it – it was radiating from the walls of this place and the stage and everything. It was unbelievable.”
Jacob Stone was on stage, about to perform at Carnegie Hall.
Stone, a Kilgore High School junior, earned a spot in Carnegie Hall’s High School Honors Performance Series playing alongside top high school musicians from around the world.
The trip included two full days of rehearsals from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. with a break for lunch before their performance Feb. 4.
Both Stone and chaperone Mitch Moehring said the first morning rehearsal was “rough.”
“The music was professional literature… The first day it was kind of scary, like are they ever going to pull this off,” Moehring said. “A lot of that had to do with they had never played together. Unless two kids came from the same school, none of them had ever played with one another. For the first couple hours they were getting used to each other, getting used to the conductor, used to the room,” Moehring said. On the second day he felt he could relax and the music became cleaner.
During the dress rehearsal, Moehring, Stone’s chaperone, private teacher and former KISD orchestra director, went out into the audience and listened from different areas of Carnegie Hall, including the private boxes, to hear how the music sounded throughout the building.
“I’ve been to the Dallas Symphony, Fort Worth Symphony, all of our local symphonies. I’ve seen the St. Louis Symphony. I’ve seen all these great orchestras, but none of them had a hall like this. All their halls are more updated, kind of contemporary. And this hall, it’s almost original. It’s beautiful… Every place in the hall [the music] sounds perfect.”
Stone stood in awe as he waited to walk out onto the stage to play for everyone in the audience, including his parents, knowing he earned his place on the stage.
“For my mom and my dad to both be in the audience and to both be seeing me perform at Carnegie Hall, I felt like that was all that mattered to me in that moment was ‘I got to play for them’ because if it weren’t for them I wouldn’t be here… They raised me to be the person I am and I’m proud of that, and I’m very happy with that,” Stone said.
Stone and Moehring said they were “blown away” by the support Stone received from the community through a Go Fund Me page.
“It just reminded me of how selfless people really are, especially in our community. Going to New York is a place where people mostly keep to themselves, and it kind of made me a little homesick because I really like this community where people really get to know each other and where people care about each other… People are a lot less personal there. Whenever you grow up in that environment, that’s what you get to know. People just don’t talk to each other, so it just really makes me appreciate this community a whole lot more and how much people are willing to pour into other people’s lives in order to help people succeed,” Stone said.
“It was amazing. It made me feel good that the community cares about me enough to help me get there. A big thanks to all of them.”
One of the most important things about the experience, Moehring said, is the relationships the students made with each other and with chaperones who could become mentors.
“I’m pretty sure Jacob has met a friend for life there… There’s some relationships that I hope the end of the week isn’t the end,” Moehring said.
Moehring, who operates Mitch Moehring Strings in Kilgore also, considers himself lucky to have chaperoned the trip and heard students perform pieces that were debuted both at the Sunday’s concert and decades before in Carnegie Hall.
Watching Stone on the stage, though, he said, “As a music educator, that was definitely the most success that I’ve ever had. With all the different trophies that orchestras have gotten or sweepstakes things like that, seeing a student like that from Kilgore, Texas playing in a bass section on Carnegie Hall. That was definitely the top of anything that I ever expected. I thought all-state was a big deal.”
The week included typical tourist visits around New York, including to Times Square, Central Park, the Statue of Liberty and a trip to the Top of the Rock observatory deck in Rockefeller Center. The students took a trip to see a Broadway musical, as well, with Stone assigned to “Hello Dolly!” with a different chaperone group than the one he was with for the rest of the trip.
Moehring said Stone came back saying how much he loved musicals.
“After seeing so many Disney movies my whole life, I didn’t really think that I liked musicals that much, but then seeing one in real life and people performing it live, it was just absolutely spectacular just seeing all of the effort and all of the work that you could tell they had put into it, along with the live pit orchestra that was playing along with them and everything was so perfectly in sync and well done. It was an absolute masterpiece,” Stone said.
Stone said the experience has opened his eyes to other opportunities available to him as he pursues a career in music.
“Going to New York, it even showed me how many more jobs there are than just a live performing orchestra, like a live symphony orchestra… There’s also pits on Broadway. There are movie symphonies that record for movies and television shows and things like that. There are ensembles. There are groups that just go around playing gigs. It really widened my horizons.”
The experience has helped Moehring as he focuses on private lessons and building basses and gives him more to think about – how he approaches his private lessons to give his students opportunities like those afforded students in New York have who can study with renowned musicians.
“We don’t have bass teachers here. So if I’m the only one, how can I bring that kind of level to a private lesson where it’s only an hour a week or maybe because of affordability families can only do maybe two lessons a month. How can I still give that kind of rigor that these students from New York get from a really high level player… There’s some kind of rigor that I need to get into and figuring out how to teach at a really high level for that small amount of time,” he said. “I haven’t figured that out.”
Moehring also brought his own experiences to his 14-person chaperone group, talking with them about what a music career can include and reminding them to think about more than just the pay.
“This experience has brought me to an understanding that it requires a lot of rehearsals, a lot of practice, a lot of time, focus, concentration to achieve the goals that you set in place for yourself,” Stone said. “In order to achieve greatly – in order to go to that school that you want to go to and then eventually to go into that orchestra or that pit or that group that you want to join – you have to be able to nail an audition,” Stone said. “Being able to work on those pieces until they are absolutely perfect is really the key to being able to succeed in a musical performing career. That’s something I’m going to be working on.”