On Sunday, December 1st, the Alexandria Youth Orchestra, founded by and under the direction of Mr. John De Chiaro, will present its debut performance at Carnegie Hall in New York. Earlier that morning, the Orchestra will perform at a special service at the famous West Point Academy in West Point, NY.
How this unique performance opportunity came about was the result of a suggestion from one of the adjudicators at the “Big Apple” National Orchestra Competition in May of 2012. At the conclusion of this competition in which the orchestra won first place honors, one of the judges informed Mr. De Chiaro about a special Youth Orchestra series sponsored by Carnegie Hall. Without wasting any time, Mr. De Chiaro contacted the appropriate people at Carnegie Hall and submitted the requisite DVD recording of a performance by the orchestra. One of the parents recorded the orchestra’s performance at the “Big Apple” National Orchestra Competition, which was subsequently used as the audition material for the series. Within a few short days, the orchestra was notified by the selection committee at Carnegie Hall that they were accepted into this prestigious series, and were offered the date of Sunday, December 1st for their debut performance. Subsequently, West Point Academy learned of the orchestra’s performance at Carnegie Hall, they invited the orchestra to perform at the Academy that morning for their Sunday morning worship service.
The Alexandria Youth Orchestra, founded in 2009, is comprised of 53 string students from throughout Rapides Parish. Since that time, the orchestra has participated and won first place honors in the “Blues City Classic” National Orchestra Competition in Memphis in 2010, the “Music City” National Orchestra Competition in Nashville in 2012,the “Big Apple” National Orchestra Competition in New York in 2012 and, more recently, the “Crescent City Classic” National Orchestra Competition in New Orleans this year. In addition, the orchestra performed the National Anthem at a basketball game of the New Orleans Hornets this year, and have been invited to perform there again for the newly renamed “Pelicans” on December 27th in New Orleans.
The orchestra has received tremendous support from the community, including grants from RoyOMartin, Union Tank Car, The Junior League of Alexandria, Cenla Focus Magazine, along with support from businesses such as Sam’s Club, Wal-Mart, Domino’s Pizza, Cici’s Pizza, Bon Swirl and Chick-Fil-A. The orchestra is also blessed to have the support and cooperation of the Rapides Parish School Board along with a group of very dedicated parents and students.
According to De Chiaro, “The students have put in an extraordinary amount of hard work, dedication and practice in preparation for this very prestigious and unique performance opportunity.” It is for this reason he says, “if you believe in the ridiculous, you can do the impossible. Who would have thought that in such a few short years, students with no background in music or on a stringed instrument could even consider the possibility of performing at Carnegie Hall? And yet, here it is, a reality!”
It is safe to say that on Sunday, December 1st, a dream, seemingly so distant and improbable, will come to fruition for so many of our young people in Rapides Parish. If you would like to support the Alexandria Orchestra Orchestra, please contact Mr. De Chiaro at (318) 229-7631.