It's fitting that a youth musical ensemble from Richmond, a hotbed of artistic, musical and culinary talent, will this weekend accomplish what millions around the world can only dream of: Four pupils of the Academy of Music will appear at Carnegie Hall on Friday.
The youngest of the group, 10-year-old Margaret Parrino, a rising fifth-grade student at Richmond Montessori School, won in her age division of the 2015 American Protege International Vocal Competition. Parrino studies under Shelby Milgram at the Academy of Music. She will make her stage debut at Carnegie Hall Friday at 7 p.m.
Margaret Parrino, 10, will make her debut at Carnegie Hall Friday night. (Photo courtesy: Richmond Montessori School)
Asha Iyer (below) is the winner in her age division of the 2015 American Protégé International Vocal Competition; she has won this competition twice. Iyer is a voice student of Anne O'Byrne at the Academy of Music.
Academy of Music voice student Asha Iyer, pictured here at Carnegie Hall. (Photo courtesy: Academy of Music/Lynnelle Ediger)
Laya Koder, 12, another voice student of Shelby Milgram at the Academy of Music, also won the 2015 American Protégé International Vocal Competition in her age division (middle school-age students). She has performed the national anthem at various sporting events, including Virginia Commonwealth University baseball games, the University of Richmond basketball games Richmond Flying Squirrels baseball games. Koder makes her debut at Carnegie Hall on December 19.
Laya Koder, a voice student at the Academy of Music, is 12 years old and lives in Richmond. She started singing at an early age and began taking voice lessons at the age of 9.
The final student, Caroline Haines, 18, is the winner of the 2015 American Protégé International Concerto Competition. She has gained international recognition as a solo and ensemble harpist and has performed with the Academy of Music's American Youth Harp Ensemble for several years. Haines accompanied the group to several prestigious venues, including the Lincoln Center, the Kennedy Center and the White House. Haines makes her solo debut at Carnegie Hall on Sunday, July 5.
Caroline Haines, Harpist
Having gained international attention as a first-rate harpist, Haines will perform her solo debut in Carnegie Hall on Sunday, July 5.
Lynnelle Ediger, the artistic director and founder of the American Youth Harp Ensemble at the Academy of Music, seems in awe of her students (and with good reason).
"Carnegie is a stage that professionals aspire to perform on," Ediger notes. "It's a testament to the faculty at the Academy of Music that we had not just one, but four students win at the various levels of the competition. For these students to be making their debut at such a young age is really an extraordinary accomplishment for these young performers. This will help chart their career path."
There is no other youth musical ensemble in the city of Richmond that travels as extensively the Academy of Music ensembles. They've played for presidents, diplomats and celebrities like Diane Sawyer, Robert DeNiro, Hillary Clinton, John Williams (who wrote the theme music of Star Wars) — and the list goes on and on.
Last summer, the American Youth Harp Ensemble performed in Sydney, Australia, as part of the World Harp Congress. Two years ago, the group sold out the Lincoln Center, as over 1,000 concert attendees watched them play. They just returned from a tour in Ireland, and will jet off to England to perform at Windsor Palace in August.
"This isn't the first time we've won competitions, but it's the first time we have four students win at one time," Ediger says, touting both the Academy of Music's track record of excellence in developing the musical talents of youth, and the incredible capabilities of the young people who study there.
Bravo, young musicians; show New York City what Richmond can do!