Four best friends who have played string instruments together for the last three years will hit the big leagues when they perform together at Carnegie Hall.
Pleasant Lea eighth-graders Isabel Julo, Angel Brock, Aaliyah Roland and Kailee Loffer have been chosen for the Middle School Honors Performance Series, which will take place June 23 at the legendary music hall in New York City.
Members of the honors orchestra are chosen by a selection board after an audition process and are chosen from 44 states, Canada, Isle of Man, Mexico and Taiwan.
The four Lee’s Summit students all practiced their pieces for months before the initial audition in November, balancing it with school, private lessons and other extracurricular activities. They said it was worth the exhausting schedule to do something they love.
“I always tend to have trouble expressing feelings, so I sort of play to let it out,” Kailee said. “I just get itchy to play and have to at some point.”
Kailee and Aaliyah are both violinists. Isabel is a cellist and Angel is a violist.
The girls were encouraged to apply for the honors orchestra by their longtime orchestra teacher Paul Morales, who retired this year. Though seven of his students auditioned, he was happy that at least four were chosen.
“I approached students that I felt would have a decent chance at getting in,” he said. “And I worked with them to get their individual pieces down and helped them record the video they would send in. It was an ecstatic experience to hear they got in.”
Though the girls were not together when they got the email announcing they had been chosen, they found each other later in the day to celebrate the opportunity.
“I was excited when I got in, but I was so shocked and so excited that they got in, too, because we’re best friends,” Aaliyah said. “I get to do my favorite thing with my favorite people.”
Though the girls’ parents were excited for their daughters, they also had to consider the cost associated with the honors orchestra, which rounds out to about $3,000 per child.
“It was a mix of extreme pride and being happy for her, but I was also scared,” said Lacy Loffer, Kailee’s mother. “My kid has never been to New York before and I was nervous about fundraising and how we were going to come up with money.”
To raise money for the trip, the parents have hosted several fundraisers, from playing outside of Main Slice pizza shop to a bake sale at the school’s annual Festival of Strings and a paint night at a local church.
“The Lee’s Summit business owners have been amazing in working with us,” Loffer said.
With the fundraising efforts, the girls met their goal, and all four are prepared to head to Carnegie Hall later this month. There, they will practice long hours for three days before performing on June 23.
The orchestra’s conductor is Kirt Mosier, a retired Lee’s Summit West High School orchestra teacher.
“When I saw that, there was a sigh of relief,” said Paul Brock, Angel’s father. “Having even one person among millions from Lee’s Summit is just a nice connection for them to have.”