Teen musician strikes the right note

Winner: An 18-year-old's opportunity to play clarinet with an ensemble at Carnegie Hall wins out over attending her senior prom at Perry Hall High School.

March 11, 2002|By Sandy Alexander | Sandy Alexander,SUN STAFF

Christina Gorecki faced a difficult choice this spring: play the clarinet at Carnegie Hall or attend her senior prom at Perry Hall High School.

The opportunity to be a part of the National Wind Ensemble won out and in May, Gorecki, 18, will be on her way to New York for a week of rehearsals, sightseeing and a performance May 25 at one of the world's most famous venues.

"I expect New York to be a lot of fun," says Gorecki. But "I am kind of intimidated going in. ... The players are a caliber like no other I've played with."

Gorecki is the only student from Maryland to be chosen for the New York performance.

Music instructors across the country nominated several hundred young musicians for the contest sponsored by MidAmerica Productions, a concert production company. Of the 76 individuals chosen for the fifth annual ensemble this year, more than half are college and graduate students. They will be led by one of the country's top band conductors, H. Robert Reynolds.

"Christina is a great player," says Perry Hall band director Kenny Goldsborough. "I tend to think of her as our best musician."

She is also president of the band department, lead drum major for the marching band, a participant in all-county bands, lead clarinet in the orchestra and a participant in the orchestra for the school's production of Oklahoma.

When Goldsborough encouraged Gorecki to apply for the National Wind Ensemble, it was mainly for the experience. He said he thought, "This is going to be a pipe dream for anybody to make it."

Her other band director, Chad Roberts, helped Gorecki record two pieces she had prepared for all-county band tryouts. She sent in the compact disc with a resume, an application and a letter of recommendation. Then she forgot about it until an envelope arrived two weeks later inviting her to New York.

"I opened it up ... and I was crying and I told my mother, and she started crying," remembers Gorecki.

"We always had music playing in my house," says Gorecki, whose two brothers play the trumpet. A fan of all types of music, particularly the Dave Matthews Band, she started playing clarinet in fifth grade and says success made her want to play more.

Her mother, Anita Pike, and stepfather, Jim Pike, "are very supportive, they are my biggest fans," she says. But "they never tried to get me to do anything I didn't want to do."

"I never made them practice," Anita Pike says of her three children. "They took it where they wanted to take it."

She adds, "I credit Baltimore County public schools' music program," because it started the children young and encouraged everyone to try music.

Perry Hall has a well-respected music program - in 2000, the Grammy Foundation recognized it as one of the top 100 in the country - with 800 to 1,000 students involved in the choral, instrumental and music technology programs. Music activities also receive strong community support.

For Gorecki, the biggest benefit is "music directors that care about you so much." She says, "I joke with them. We're more friends than student and teacher."

During the next several weeks, Gorecki has to learn all the clarinet parts of five pieces because she won't know until after the on-site auditions which part she will be assigned. She will add that task to a full schedule of classwork, private lessons, school band practice, student senate and working at a local movie theater.

Then it's off to New York where Gorecki is looking forward to "the whole experience," including meeting other musicians and touring the city, when not rehearsing six to eight hours a day. Her mother is going with her, and her family is paying the more than $1,000 in fees, travel, housing and other expenses.

To lessen the sting of missing the prom, Gorecki's friends are planning a party when she comes home. They all agreed, she says, that "the trip is the opportunity of a lifetime."

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