On March 21 of 2016, I performed with one of the best high school fine arts program in the country on the stage of Carnegie Hall.
My name is Kaitlyn Stafki, and I’m a senior harpist in Martin High School. Just a few days ago, I was standing on the stage of Carnegie Hall in front of 1,600 people in the audience beside 200 people on stage. Among those performers were the Martin High School Band, the 2015 TMEA Honor String Orchestra and the 2016 TMEA Honor Chamber Choir. We performed an entire program named “Sounds of a New Generation; An Evening with James Martin High School.” In this program, we performed several very difficult pieces including but not limited to Dvorak’s Carnival Overture, Rachmoninoff’s Symphony No. 1, and Randal Bass’s Gloria.
I will admit, the program was rather challenging at times, especially considering the fact that no high school orchestras would even touch Rach with a ten foot pole, but the pay-off was amazing. After ever piece, we would get standing ovations, and as the crowd cheered us on and I looked out into the beautiful hall, I had to try my best not to cry.
Figuring out how we (myself and Gloria Estes, my other harpist) would have harps to perform on was also very interesting. Without harp boxes to pack our own personal harps in or anyone to drive them from Arlington, Texas to New York City, we were in a pickle. We ended up spending around $3,000 to rent two harps for the night, and I had the opportunity to play on a Lyon and Healy that was nearly 101 years old! It looked to have stretch marks (little tiny cracks) in the wood, and the sound board was curved up slightly from the constant pressure of the pulling strings over the years.
Playing in the hall was such an honor, and I will never ever forget about how I felt at the last note of the Gloria, and when I stood up to take our final bow, I couldn’t help but let the tears flow. I never would have thought that I would get the opportunity to play in such a world renowned hall as only a senior in high school. I am very grateful to be a part of such an amazing full orchestra program, and as I move onto bigger things, it will always hold a special place in my heart.