Two local rising stars are hitting the international stage Down Under as they make their way around the world to showcase their musical talents at the Sydney Opera House this summer.
Cara Cha, 15, an incoming sophomore at Lee’s Summit High School, and Seth Keep, 17, an incoming senior at Lee’s Summit West High School, will represent Lee’s Summit R-7 School District in Sydney in July as part of the High School Honors Performance Series.
The program highlights the musical talents of high school students around the world and offers them the opportunity to study with master conductors and perform in world-renowned venues.
Cha, who plays the viola, and Keep, who plays the bass, were shocked to hear that they were among about 250 candidates from around the globe selected to go to Australia.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to The Kansas City Star
“When I first read that I had qualified I was extremely shocked, but I was also so excited,” Cha said of her first reaction to receiving an email with the news.
“I honestly did not know how to process it,” Keep said. “I kind of had to put my phone down after I read it. I took a few minutes to try and collect everything before I called my mom and told her I was accepted.”
The two don’t know each other but have recently connected on Facebook. Both are excited to work together to represent their hometown.
“Even though we don’t know each other, I think we will be able to bond very easily when we are there,” Keep said.
Students are nominated for the series by teachers, private music instructors and other musical professionals. To be considered, nominees must submit a video or audio audition between 3 and 5 minutes long.
“We processed more than 18,000 nominations this year and have selected nearly 250 of the most talented student performers from around the world,” said program director Nancy Richardson in a news release.
“Working with these conductors and performing at Sydney Opera House is a once-in-a-lifetime experience that these musicians never forget.”
Keep is currently a member of Lee’s Summit West High School Symphony Orchestra. In addition to music, he plays varsity tennis and takes lessons outside of school.
Cha, who has played the piano and viola for eight years, is a member of the Lee’s Summit High School Philharmonic Orchestra. She also practices and competes in archery.
Finalists will spend much of the six days rehearsing for their July 21 public performance. The almost weeklong workshop will also include excursions to tourist attractions and national parks.
The program doesn’t cover travel expenses for the candidates or their families, but that hasn’t stopped the families from taking advantage of a trip around the world.
“We have never been to Australia,” Sunyun Choi, Cara’s mother, said with a laugh. Choi said she will make the trip with her husband and their three children, including her youngest, a 2-year-old son. They will also visit Choi’s native South Korea before heading back to the States.
The Keeps are also making it a family affair. Seth’s mother, Janel, said she will travel with her husband, two children and her mother-in-law. She said three of her family members, including Seth, are certified scuba divers.
They plan to visit the Great Barrier Reef before heading to Sydney for Seth’s performance.
“It hasn’t sunk in yet,” Janel Keep said of the trip. “When we see him on stage, there will be goose bumps, and it will probably still be surreal.”