They warmed up just like members of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra. They dressed like them. They sat in the same chairs.
It was only when they rushed on stage at the five-minute warning bell that the 28 Anne Arundel County high school students playing with the BSO this week gave themselves away. The real BSO players hung back in the lounge, lingering a few extra minutes over coffee.
For a decade, high schoolers have vied for the chance to play side by side in a single concert with the BSO. This year's winners in December auditions got to play with the orchestra for a whole week. The best even won solos.
Today's 11 a.m. performance is their last. The theme of the concerts is percussion, but the pieces are heavy on oboe. For a moment in the Viennese Musical Clock section of Kodaly's Hary Janos Suite this week, the orchestra was carried by Sarah Jorgensen's oboe and Lauren Bowers' trumpet.
Theirs were the sounds of triumph.
`I love music'
Sarah Jorgensen, 17, will be sitting in the middle of the wind section today. You might have seen the Annapolis High School junior play field hockey last year or in years past dance on pointe in Nutcracker performances. Music always has been a choice: Ballet or music? Track or music? Lacrosse or music? And this year, field hockey or music?
"I tried to juggle it, but I realized this year I was spread too thin," she says. "I wanted to excel at one thing, rather than be mediocre at several.
"I love music. From Spanish to rap to classical. Friends make fun of me. I listen to music all day. I've never driven anywhere without millions of CDs in my car."
Well, make that about 50 CDs.
With her peers in the audience Tuesday, she was clearly nervous. Before her solo in Tchaikovsky's Symphony No. 4, her chair rocked. Afterward, her hand flew to her head, smoothing back her hair. Relief?
By the time the tamborine rolls in Carmen began Wednesday, though, she lifted her oboe and swayed gracefully throughout her solo. Louder and richer this time. BSO horn player Jane Marvine leaned over to offer praise.
It's numbing, the intensity. "I remember starting," Jorgensen says, "and I remember finishing."
Pieces beyond her age
A tiny commotion errupted in the cello section one day this week where Rachel Gawell was warming up for the opening Strauss piece.
What promoted the wisp of a girl in a long black dress to stand up and wave briefly toward the audience? To demur with embarrassed smile when BSO assistant principal cello Chang Woo Lee motioned her and her cello forward into the limelight?
Gawell is only 13, an eighth-grader at Severn River Middle school. In black dress, her long hair flowing to the side, she could pass for 23. She challenges herself with pieces beyond her age, too. Pieces like the Bach cello suites, which she brought to her teacher, begging to play them. Her teacher was encouraging; yes, she could learn them - soon.
Of the pieces in today's concert, the Tchaikovsky symphony was most difficult to learn. Gawell rehearsed one tricky section of it, only about 16 measures, for 30 minutes a day since December, when she learned she'd won a spot in the mostly high school level program.
"How good you are really depends on how much you practice," Gawell says. "People say it's talent, but I work hard, and I am inspired by things - by other musicians and by pieces people play."
She practices two or three hours a day. Once she learns a piece, she says, "it gets real fun."
So who was that lady with the camera during warm-up, asking Gawell to stand for a photo?
Her teacher, of course.
He never stops
The cello picked Keith Thomas. He himself had hoped to play the violin, but when his name was called, Lothian Elementary School ran out of violins. His disappointment faded as his talent grew. In fourth grade, he was invited to play cello for the middle school band. In middle school, he was invited to play with the high school. In high school, well, here he is.
The 16-year-old sophomore at South River High School plays some violin now, too. This year he is among 20 student cellists honored as the best in the state. More than 150 applied. "I might [have been] a good violinist," he says, "but not all-state."
Music is the No. 1 thing in his life. All types of music - reggae, rap, rock, jazz. Sometimes in his practice, he goes off on a tangent, but he never stops.
"I tell my mom, don't let me stop until the timer runs out."
Percussion is cool
Kathryn Goldsmith, 17, a senior at Severna Park High, expected to play percussion today. But she didn't expect to solo on the xylophone.
Here's what happened: A few weeks ago at rehearsal she stepped in to play the xylophone so the students could hear Saint-Saens' Carnival of the Animals section.
She rushed the piece, so when Chris Williams, the BSO principal percussionist, approached to ask her to play the solo all week, she was surprised. "I thought you were going to take me off [the instrument]," she remembers telling him.