A former Brandonite and viola player with the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra will play on the hallowed stage of New York’s Carnegie Hall thanks to a former high school teacher.
The WSO was picked to play the Hall’s Spring for Music concert in May along with the New York Philharmonic, Seattle Symphony, Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra, Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra and May Festival Chorus, and Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra.
Through a WSO "adopt-a-musician" campaign, Brandon native Greg Hay, 39, was sponsored by his former Vincent Massey High School English and drama teacher David Wilson for $3,000 to make the trip to the storied music hall.
"He’s been really good to me throughout my career," Hay said just before taking the stage for the WSO’s "Umi Plays Chopin" concert at the Western Manitoba Centennial Auditorium on Sunday.
"He always treated me like a professional musician ... I think he has such tremendous respect for musicians."
Hay said Wilson even paid him an honorarium while playing in the orchestra pit for high school productions.
Their relationship continued well after Hay graduated and Wilson hires the violist every year for Augustfest Chamber Ensemble — a typically slow season for orchestral musicians.
Through the WSO’s sponsorship program, Wilson’s donation will pay for Hay’s three-day trip to Manhattan to make his Carnegie Hall main stage debut.
"I don’t even know why it’s more storied than other halls," he said. "It’s become a symbol. If you’ve played Carnegie Hall, it’s like you’ve made it somehow in the industry."
Hay has played in Carnegie Hall before but not in the main Isaac Stern Auditorium, which seats 2,800 on five levels.
Since it’s such a financial burden, the WSO rarely tours to far-flung places, so Hay said the opportunity to travel anywhere with the orchestra is exciting.
"Playing Carnegie Hall is a cherry on top," he said.
Of the 67 members of the WSO, Hay is the only born-and-raised Brandonite but many of the musicians have connections to Brandon University’s music program.
The WSO plans to perform pieces from its New Music Festival, including Derek Charke’s "13 Inuit Throat Song Games" featuring throat singer Tanya Tagaq, WSO composer-in-residence Vincent Ho’s "The Shaman: Concerto for Percussion and Orchestra" featuring Dame Evelyn Glennie as well as R. Murray Schafer’s "Symphony No. 1."
The Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra made its Carnegie Hall debut on March 3, 1979.
In 2012, orchestras were selected partially for the imaginative nature of their proposed programming in a two-part process which includes a jury selection committee and an online vote.