Not Your Average Band Kid

FSSA junior Angelina Garcia with third horn of the Metropolitan Opera, Javier Gandara.

The iPhone alarm buzzes at 7 A.M. on Saturday. To high schoolers, this time is sacred – sleeping in. But, not to this 16-year-old. Instead of enjoying a lazy day, she is going somewhere most can only dream of: The Juilliard School.  

The Pre-College at Juilliard gives high schoolers a taste of what music school is really like. Every Saturday, young musicians from around the city file into the modern building at the heart of Lincoln Center, going to class in a mock conservatory environment. The program is essentially a sixth day of school, and combined with the academic stress of junior year, it takes a certain type of resilience to keep up with the pack.

“I don’t really think of it like that, you know? It’s not really ‘work’ if you like it. And who wouldn’t wanna be at Juilliard,” said Angelina Garcia, Junior instrumental major at Frank Sinatra School of the Arts (FSSA).

Most of the kids accepted into the Julliard program are seniors – the ones who are the best at their instruments. However, Angelina Garcia was admitted as a freshman.

“Oh god, don’t remind me of my audition. I was literally shaking. I still don’t know why they let me in,” she said.

She’s remarkably humble considering what she has achieved. She doesn’t like to tell people about her Saturdays to avoid coming off as cocky or obnoxious. Not to mention it takes real guts to play a brass instrument; especially the French horn. Known for being the wildcard in the orchestra, notes often crack and misfire due to the small mouthpiece and long tubing. Even in professional orchestras, it’s not uncommon to hear a few clams (a term made up by musicians to describe a missed note) here and there from the horn section.

Angelina is unique in another way too – brass sections have been dominated by men for decades. This doesn’t seem to phase her though. In fact, the first female hornist to achieve tenure at the New York Philharmonic, Leelanee Sterrett, was Angelina’s former private teacher. Now at Juilliard, Angelina studies with the third horn of the Metropolitan Opera, Javier Gandara.

While the future of this young prodigy is unknown, her parents want a say in what it will be.

“I obviously want to go into music. Like, this is my life right now, but my mom wants me to do something more traditional. She’s worried I won’t make any money and become a starving artist,” Angelina said.

They have decided to meet in the middle though, with universities offering dual degree programs in the arts and academics, such as Rice, Northwestern, and Harvard – New England Conservatory. The point is, Angelina still has time to decide, and if her musical endeavors don’t speak for themselves already, whatever she chooses will come with ease and success.

– by James Picarello 19