Baldwin High School students shine at Carnegie Hall with Honors Performance Series


Baldwin High School students Gabriela Lucas and Mikayla Rodriguez answered the age-old joke, “How do you get to Carnegie Hall?” The duo recently performed at the world-famous venue in the treble choir through the Honors Performance Series.

Established in 2010 to spotlight talented individual student performers on a global stage, the event is exclusive to top-rated performers, hosting more than 400 students from the U.S., Bermuda and provinces in Canada. Through a nomination and selection process, high school students gathered last month in New York City to form the honors choirs and honors instrumental ensembles.

Kristine Costello, Baldwin High School choral director, nominated her two students for the distinction.

“As a music educator, this is one of the highest compliments we can receive,” Costello wrote in an email. “Most of our students have not had the opportunity to be part of an audience at Carnegie, let alone perform on its stage!”

Nominated students were asked to submit a three to five-minute audition recording, and those who were accepted received an invitation last December. The weeklong event took place from Feb. 7-10, concluding with the Baldwin duo’s performance, following days of rehearsing and bonding with their fellow musicians outside the high school concert choir.

Rodriguez, a 16-year-old junior, has been an enthusiastic singer since childhood. She fondly remembers singing her “heart out” to songs on the radio. Her love for music then blossomed, beginning in elementary school and continuing through three years in the middle school choir.

Joining the high school choir further fueled her passion for music and deepened her commitment to learning and artistic expression.

“Academically, I’ve seen such growth from when I started out to where I am now,” Rodriguez said. “Being able to have these experiences shows the amount of dedication and effort that I myself have put in with the help of my lovely choir teachers.”

For Lucas, an 18-year-old senior, music has always been a part of her life, listening to gospel music at church and attending Sunday school listening to the choir.

When Costello nominated her, it came as a shock.

“I knew I could sing, but I didn’t know I was that good at it,” Lucas said with a chuckle. “I would just sing for fun and think, ‘Oh, it sounds nice here and there,’ but I didn’t think that other people thought I could sing so well to the point that they thought I would deserve such an opportunity.”

Lucas auditioned as a sophomore going into her junior year but didn’t get accepted. Despite the denial, she applied again as a junior going into her senior year.

“I felt like I wasn’t as prepared last year,” she explained. “So, I was like, ‘let’s try and change that.’”

Opened in 1891, Carnegie Hall is best known for its interior, elliptical shape, extended stage and domed ceiling, which produces a sound that can’t be compared to other halls.

Lucas said that she experienced some nervousness, but when it came time to sing, she was all business.

“At that moment, when you’re standing there, everyone is there,” Lucas said. “Like, ‘Oh my gosh, we’re about to do this, we’re about to sing,’ and then the conductor had us ready and we were locked in, trusting each other.”

Embracing the performance and fully immersed in the moment, Rodriguez seized the opportunity to absorb the rare and captivating sound that few are fortunate enough to experience.

“When you’re in that space (at Carnegie Hall), it is so breathtaking,” Rodriguez said. “The acoustics in that space are just one of the best that I’ve ever felt. Whenever people come together for music and in a hollow space, it’s beautiful, and the way that everything feels is incredible.”