Two days ago I had the honor of performing in the world-renowned Carnegie Hall. The experience was something out of a movie. Being on a stage where many of the world’s greatest musicians throughout history have come to share their passions with New York is more than I could have imagined. One year ago, I had the pleasure of attending a concert there to watch my sister give a masterful performance with her school. This year, I had the opportunity to experience the hall from the stage.
Walking into Stern Auditorium the first time was awe-inspiring. Brilliant, grand architecture with acoustics designed to give the best possible sound quality. Its golden embellishments and dark mahogany seats give the entire room an inner feeling of audacious glory. The entire hall also has an aura of solemn reverence for those who have left their marks and moved onward. As I watched my sister beaming from ear to ear as she made beautiful music on stage, I thought to myself, “This is one of the best moments of my life and I am glad that I get to see someone perform from that stage.”
Yesterday was my chance to leave a musical impact. A few months ago, Dr. Andy Pease received a request from Carnegie Hall to bring his Hartwick College Wind Ensemble down for a performance. I volunteer with the band and was also asked to attend. The initial reactions of us all upon hearing the news were along the lines of shock, disbelief, wonder, and overwhelming excitement. We practiced more than usual as an ensemble and took a day trip down to the Big Apple from little Oneonta, NY.
It was all just a lot of talk until we stepped out of the bus and looked across the street at the exterior of the building that has attracted greatness through the ages. We met one of the hall’s staff members and he took us into the building and up several flights of stairs to our dressing room. Every footstep felt like a small eternity. Each second passed more slowly usual. It was a dream that I did not want to end.
We warmed up our instruments and headed to the stage for a dress rehearsal. Walking into Stern Auditorium for the second time was completely different than before. Time stood still. As it turns out, my mouth dropped open and I stood still, gazing up at the great hall. Andy stared at me, started smiling, and exclaimed, “That’s exactly what I did my first time on stage!”
Every sound we made on that stage rang out into the hall and came back to us. Normally, we rehearse in a circular room, which is the musical equivalent of swimming in a whirlpool. The sounds bounce around and never quite make it all the way back. In this auditorium, however, from every place I stood on stage, I could hear every other sound that anybody played. When we played a chord together, it was easy to lock in on the tuning and produce a unified, fully resonant bubble of powerful energy.
Musical resonance occurs when two or more voices or instruments synchronize completely. The sounds combine and ring together in an explosive fashion. Emotionally, resonance is felt in moments when shivers go down your spine and you cannot help but totally focus on the beauty around you. Rehearsing in that space felt like experiencing unimaginable beauty nearly every chord we played.
We had the pleasure of enjoying this space for nearly an hour to prepare for our concert. We fixed some minor issues and headed out to get some dinner before our 9:40 pm performance. As we got dressed and put the finishing touches on our preparations, the nerves set in as they always do before a significant performance. Adrenaline started to take over and I thought back to some sage advice from my sister.
The day before our trip down to NYC I texted her asking for some words of wisdom. She replied: Yeah. Don’t cry. Hahaha. It wasn’t quite what I was expecting. She did end up continuing and told me that it doesn’t matter how I play because the experience of performing there is so overwhelming that the most important thing is to remember the experience for the rest of my life. Lastly, she said:
“If you are overwhelmed in passion nothing can beat that, because even the missed notes will sound good because they have purpose.”
From the second I walked on stage, nothing felt real. There were hundreds of people in the audience. We had thirty minutes to show those people what we had been working on for months. The lights went down, Dr. Pease came to the podium, and the performance was over. The brilliance of the sounds we made in that hall was so overwhelming that time flew with excitement and enjoyment. There was no time for reflection or analysis, just living in the presence of greatness.
Playing in Carnegie Hall is most every musician’s dream. It is a stage where so many of the world’s most influential performers have impacted the lives of people in the room. It is a space that demands respect, reverence, and brilliance. When you make music with other people, these three demands are already met. We don’t need particular spaces to make magic happen and change the lives of others. We need each other to bring the world to harmony one song at a time.
When people resonate with each other through harmony they physically, emotionally, and spiritually connect with the outer world. This natural connection helps people find security, consonance, and hope. When a group of people can come together and communicate profound emotions without words, there is always hope for humanity and the everlasting entanglement of nature and humankind.
Music is a series of overlapping waves, carrying enough energy to change the emotions of others. When sounds come together in the right ways, we can invoke lasting change that will help the world. Carnegie Hall simply showed me even more that the ultimate aim of music is to win the world to harmony, one song at a time. This message has been passed down since the beginning of time and is exemplified by the history of masterful musicians who have played at this venue. The best thing we can do for others is to resonate with our surroundings and leave meaningful changes to those around us. Music is one way to do that and listening to the unspoken message of the greatest musicians of all time is, I believe, the way to make the world a better place.