WOOD-RIDGE, NJ - "How do you get to Carnegie Hall?"
Leo Leuci, a member of the Wood-Ridge Class of 2016, knows the old adage - practice, practice, practice. It also helps if you start at age 4.
Leuci made his piano debut in the world's premier music hall, accompanying three vocalists on piano in late April.
Selected after New Jersey City University submitted several students' recordings in a competition from its various music departments, including brass, woodwind, keyboard/piano, voice and musical theater. It is the second time he has been on stage at Carnegie Hall, having previously performed there are part of a chorus.
"I was excited because they were very selective about who they chose," he said. "It was also nerve-wracking because I have a history of performance anxiety."
The group of students had a dress rehearsal they day before the show.
"You had a chance to go over the pieces once, maybe twice," he said.
"It's amazing, it's incredible," he said about the famous concert hall. "A lof of performance halls are standard, the acoustic are the same, some don't even have great acoustics.
"This was specifically built for sound," he explained. "And they also made it look magnificent."
"When you walk out, there's this massive room, and it echoes, and you can hear a pin drop because the sounds travels so well. I was blown away."
The three pieces were "A Chloris" by Renaldo Hahn performed by Emily Morales, "Addio, Senza Ranco" from Giamcomo Puccini's 'La Boehem' performed by Elizabeth Smith and a piece from the opera "La Sonnambula" by Vincenzo Bellini, sung by Katie Kang.
Leuci started his musical journey at four years old taking piano lessons. Along the way, he picked up the organ, flute/piccolo, clarinet and French horn while in the music program at Wood-Ridge. He still goes back to accompany them in the winter and spring concerts.
Leuci is also involved in the college's concert choral and chamber singers.
"It's a body of people and you all have to blend together to make something beautiful."
Leuci carries a fulltime schedule of 18 to 19 credits a semester, practices 14 to 15 hours a week and gives private piano lessons. He is a music education major for K to 12, studying both vocal and instrumental. He hopes to be a high school choir director or general music education teacher when he graduates.
Would he come back home to teach at Wood-Ridge?
"If the opportunity opened up, I would take it.
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