Student musicians take center stage at Carnegie Hall

Riverhead High School sophomore Lauren Enos, 15, sits on the edge of her seat in Carnegie Hall’s Stern Auditorium, her clarinet pointed down. Her eyes are glued to the sheet music in front of her, but she’s practiced enough that she knows composer Aaron Copland’s “Lincoln Portrait” like the back of her hand.

It’s her second performance at Carnegie Hall with the Metropolitan Youth principal orchestra, but her debut as a first-chair clarinet. The pressure’s on. 

Conductor Phil Preddice lifts his baton. Lauren takes a deep breath and blows air into her woodwind instrument, and four other clarinetists follow her lead. The student musicians harmonize into a powerful, 16-minute piece. After this performance, Lauren’s brother, Bryan, an eighth-grader at Riverhead Middle School, will take the stage as first-chair trombonist with the MYO symphony orchestra..

Last Sunday, May 5, the Enos siblings performed with Suffolk County branch of MYO a private organization that hosts three concerts featuring student musicians, who must audition and pay tuition to participate. 

Students instrumentalists in the MYO program play in one of three ensembles: the entry-level concert orchestra; the symphony, which consists mostly of high school students; and the principal orchestra, primarily for 11th- and 12th-graders, said Lauren and Bryan’s mother, Rene Suprina, who is also a clarinetist and district music coordinator at Southold High School. 

Eight North Fork students performed with MYO at Carnegie Hall last weekend. Joining Lauren and Bryan were Riverhead Middle school flutist Victoria Santoro in the concert orchestra; Southold High School violinist Kate Jones in the symphony; and cellist Nathaniel Bollermann, piccolo and flutist Brady Wells and percussionist William Green from Riverhead High School, in the principal orchestra. 

Lauren said she loved being on stage with her classmates.

“It’s really cool because I learn from their talent,” she said. “Most of them have been there since their freshman year.”

Ms. Suprina said auditions are based on New York State School Music Association rankings. Instrumentalists are required to play at NYSSMA level 4 or higher. When Bryan auditioned, he was a level 5. Lauren has been at level 6 for a while, the mother said.

Lauren began performing at age 3 with the violin. When she reached the third grade, she traded her violin in for a clarinet. 

Lauren said she was inspired by her mother, who graduated from SUNY/Potsdam in 1984. Bryan started playing the trombone in fifth grade — and has stuck with it. 

Lauren said she plays constantly — during the week in school band and with family members in amateur groups in Riverhead and Greenport On off days, she practices at least an hour or two on her own. MYO rehearses every Monday evening and she takes private lessons at home.

“It seems like a lot, but with all the music that I play year-round and have to get under my fingers and everything, it make sense,” she said.

Their family is music-oriented, Ms. Suprina said. Her eldest son earned his degree in music education from SUNY/Fredonia and was later an elementary school band teacher.

“We’re a family that plays together all the time,” she said. “If I can’t make a performance with the community band, my daughter will go sub for me, and if she’s doing something, I can sub for her. My daughter has surpassed me now in my ability to play.” 

As a mother, she said, it was a moment of pure joy to watch her children perform. 

“The magnitude of being in that hall is really amazing,” Ms. Suprina said. “Being on the same stage as world-famous musicians … it’s incredible.” 

For Lauren, performing at Carnegie Hall makes the music come alive. Since audience members are prohibited from recording or photographing the performance, she said it creates a significant experience for performers. 

“It’s what I love about music,” she said. “You play a piece … and it’s just you and the audience. You experience it and then leave it there. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime thing.”

Photo caption: Students in the Metropolitan Youth Orchestra Suffolk County principal orchestra perform in Carnegie Hall’s Stern Auditorium on May 5. (Credit: Rob Davison Photography)

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