Long Beach sixth-grader Jesse Hubbs is set to perform Friday at the New York State School Music Association All-State Conference after being selected as one of 13 students who would perform at the annual piano showcase out of 110 applicants.
After receiving a perfect score on his level 6 NYSSMA performance last year, the middle school student became eligible for consideration for the prestigious piano recital, said Julia Lang-Shapiro, the Long Beach School District’s director of media, visual and performing arts.
He’s one of the youngest students to be accepted to perform at the recital, Lang-Shapiro said, which will take place at the Joseph A. Floreano Riverside Convention Center in Rochester.
Three weeks ago, a video of Hubbs performing a classical piece went viral on the Long Beach Public Schools Facebook page and garnered more than 16,000 views.
Hubbs — who began playing music when he was 5 years old — also plays the cello, takes private lessons once a week and participates in the district’s sixth grade orchestra as well as the chamber orchestra, an extracurricular activity. He practices every day for at least an hour or an hour and a half, Hubbs said, according to Fox 5 News.
“He is an extraordinary young man,” Lang-Shapiro said. “He’s incredibly dedicated, talented and incredibly humble. He’s definitely not an ordinary 11-year-old. A lot of that comes from his parents. They’re wonderful support for him and really want to see him succeed in everything he does.”
Hubbs performed a rendition of “Musical Moment No. 4” by Sergei Rachmaninoff at the Nov. 8 Board of Education meeting to a room filled with awe-struck school administrators and community members.
Lang-Shapiro said he memorizes the pieces he plays, and overcomes the struggle of not having full-grown hands yet — he compensates by stretching his fingers to reach the keys.
“It’s a physically demanding piece like this and he’s able to do it with such grace and talent,” she said. “He’s somebody who’s completely dedicated and who truly loves music.”
Lang-Shapiro said Hubbs shows an interest in the personal lives of each composer and researches the meaning behind each piece to learn how he can better portray certain emotions.
“Jesse is curious by nature and always delves deep into the lives of composers and the stories behind musical compositions,” Hubbs’ mother, Toni Hubbs, said. “Jesse demonstrated a profound love for many different genres of music from the time he was a toddler. We noticed that he would hum and move in time with different types of music — whether classical, jazz or pop.”
Toni said she and her husband are often surprised by how quickly Hubbs memorizes music and retains complex pieces.
“We are both so very proud of him and happy that he has found his passion,” Toni said.