Author: Chey Barlao ’18

Biochemistry and biophysics pre-med student at Rensselaer, and Rensselaer Orchestra concertmaster

Almost everyone asked, “Carnegie Hall? As in THE Carnegie Hall?” Carnegie Hall, the hall of greats. Dvořák, Roosevelt, Tchaikovsky, Einstein, and many other remarkable people walked upon this stage. Now, it was my turn.

Every semester since my first, our conductor, Nicholas DeMaison, would dangle a ball of success higher and higher, and every time we’d jump and reach it. We kept achieving until one day our success caught up to us. Somehow, an engineering school orchestra managed to grab the attention of someone important enough to get us onto the stage of Carnegie.

It couldn’t have been more perfect for me as fall 2018 is my last semester at RPI. Not to trivialize all the semesters and orchestras for which I had been the concertmaster, but being concertmaster for this performance was going to be extremely special. For a biochemistry and biophysics pre-med student to have “Performed at Carnegie Hall” on her resume is quite uncommon. I remember that for as long as I had played with my plastic doctor kit, I had also loved all things music. I’ve spent many hours practicing the violin since the third grade and even more hours dedicated to the sciences. The two very different fields were a constant in my life that somehow came together to give me this opportunity.

Every day leading up to our performance was like riding a roller-coaster, full of ups and downs. But suddenly during our first full rehearsal, everything clicked. By then, I wanted to skip time and perform.

Finally, the wait was over. I was too excited to sleep on the bus ride to Carnegie. On stage, I couldn’t stop smiling even while I was just tuning the orchestra for our dress rehearsal. I really thought my face was going to break. The whole day zipped by and before I knew it, I was standing backstage waiting for the performance to start. As if the honor of concertmaster at Carnegie Hall wasn’t enough, the Honorable Dr. Shirley Ann Jackson, president of Rensselaer, came backstage and shook my hand.

My cue was given and I walked out. I remember looking out before my bow and it seemed that time froze; I took in the lights, the applause, and the moment.  Everything again seemed to happen in fast-forward. After the performance, I walked out of the building and met a cloud of cameras shouting “There’s the concertmaster!” I felt like a celebrity!

I stood for pictures then hopped onto the bus and just like that, the night was done. That’s the beauty of music. You put in months of work for an hour or so of performing. But then, just like that, it’s over and you come back to a new piece and a blank slate. Somehow you have to recreate the magic with that new piece and the process begins again.

It was honestly such a magical day and I wouldn’t have changed a single thing about it. While the performance may be over, the memory is forever replaying in my mind and I couldn’t be more grateful for it all.