Winning a spot as a soloist at LaGuardia High School’s annual concerto isn’t easy. But Jessica Wu did it in the spring of 2020.
“It was just the normal, rehearsal, rehearsal, rehearsal, and then COVID hit and then at that point we were thinking, no, it’s probably not going to happen,” she said.
Of course, the pandemic meant it did not happen. Schools closed, and there hasn't been a concerto since.
"I was pretty disappointed because after many rehearsals we wouldn’t be able to give this to the audience and allow them to see our hard work and feel the music,” she said.
She was a sophomore at the time. Now, a senior, she entered the competition again this year. She performed a new piece, before new judges, and won, again, giving her a second chance to perform before she graduates.
“I am definitely excited to perform again with the senior orchestra, a little bit nervous obviously because – performance, obviously you’ll be nervous, but mostly excited,” she said.
This year, she'll play a piece by Prokofiev, with the backing of the school’s senior orchestra, conducted by teacher Joseph Meyers.
“So much of what they do in preparation is a solitary activity,” Meyers said. “Having the opportunity to interact with each other and make music with each other, which is the only way to make music, is an extraordinary thing.”
It’s an experience that couldn’t really be replicated over Zoom.
“You couldn’t do chamber music, you couldn’t do orchestra, you couldn’t play simultaneously, and I think that is such a big part of music,” Jessica said.
The vast majority of students were fully remote last year, including the concerto’s other soloist, sophomore Bobby Boogyeom Park.
“The first year, I didn’t – I said I was a student at LaGuardia, but I didn’t even know what the building looked like,” he said.
But now, he’ll perform here, playing solos from Franz Waxman's Carmen Fantasie, backed by his peers.
The concerto is open to the public. The orchestra is ready for a crowd. And Jessica is ready for her second chance to shine.
“I definitely feel very grateful for the opportunity,” she said.
The concerto is free, and will be held Wednesday at 7 p.m. in the school’s concert hall. Members of the general public can get free tickets at the box office in the school’s lobby, beginning an hour before the performance. Attendees must show proof of vaccination.
The performance will also be live-streamed, at www.laguardiahs.org/events.