Pipestone HS musician plays at Carnegie HallPIPESTONE — Some musicians spend their entire careers trying to reach the Carnegie Hall stage.
By: Alyson Buschena, Worthington Daily Globe
PIPESTONE — Some musicians spend their entire careers trying to reach the Carnegie Hall stage.
At the age of 17, Pipestone senior Zach Ploeger can already boast performing in the New York City venue that has also hosted the likes of George Gershwin, Benny Goodman, Leonard Bernstein and the Beatles.
Participating twice in the Minnesota All-State Band and in the National Association for Music Education All-National Honor Concert Band at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C., Ploeger has already made a name for himself in music circles.
Nevertheless, it was a surprise when a letter came from Carnegie Hall informing him that he was eligible to audition to play trumpet in the American High School Honors Series Performance Band.
According to its website, the Honors Performance Series “challenges elite students to perform at their very best” and invites representatives from collegiate and professional music programs to attend.
While much of the students’ time is spent preparing for the concert, they are also able to experience the best New York City has to offer in performing arts and tourist sites.
To be selected for the band, Ploeger had to submit an application, including a performance biography and audition recording.
Applicants were encouraged to choose a technical piece to showcase their talent and Ploeger submitted a recording of Theo Charlier’s 2nd Etude.
“It isn’t well known,” Ploeger said of the piece. “It shows ability and strength and isn’t something you would perform.”
After learning that he had been selected for the elite New York ensemble in October, Ploeger received the music for the concert and began preparing.
On Feb. 7, he and his parents and grandparents flew to New York. When he arrived, Ploeger had to again audition, this time for solos and chair placement (ranking with the band).
“I was first chair out there,” Ploeger said. “We had to audition for the solo ,and I also had a small solo in the piece ‘Angels and the Architect’ by Frank Ticheli.”
The concert band was composed of members from across the U.S. and “select international schools,” according to the Honors Series website.
“We had members from all over the U.S., Canada, China, Mexico — I don’t know every country that was represented,” Ploeger said.
Leading the students was Sharon Lavery, conductor, and H. Robert Reynolds, guest conductor.
“We had world-renowned H. Robert Reynolds, one of the great conductors, and also Sharon Lavery. They were two great conductors,” Ploeger said.
Ploeger and the rest of the band members had rehearsals every day that culminated in a concert on Feb. 10.
"It was fun," Ploeger said of the experience. "The weather got a little bad for a while. It's a different experience than living in Pipestone. Everything is so close, but it takes twice as long to get there."
A long-standing joke about Carnegie Hall recounts a Manhattan pedestrian who stopped the famous musician Jascha Heifetz and inquired, “Could you tell me how to get to Carnegie Hall?” “Yes,” said Heifetz. “Practice!”
A pianist since kindergarten, Ploeger is no stranger to practice.
“I’ve been doing music for a long time and I’ve always liked it,” Ploeger said, estimating that he practices at least an hour a day.
He started playing trumpet in fifth grade.
“Trumpet was the first instrument that I tried and I guess I liked it,” he said.
In addition to his performance resume, Ploeger has also been developing his composition skills. He recorded and released a CD with 11 of his own compositions last year,
While Ploeger is undecided which college or university he will attend next year, he said he is planning to study trumpet performance and composition.
No matter where his education and future take him, Ploeger is sure to remember his first New York performance.
“It was great to get to work with a lot of kids that share the love of music and have high-quality experience,” Ploeger said. “It’s not something you can do every day in high school band.”
Daily Globe Reporter Alyson Buschena may be reached at