CEDAR GROVE, NJ - Though he has only been playing guitar for two years, Francesco Luisi, 9, is already getting a chance to play at Carnegie Hall.

Francesco is a third grader at South End School and he was chosen to play a solo in the Lindeblad School of Music Student Showcase at Carnegie Hall on June 5.  He was inspired to learn to play by listening to his father Felix Luisi play his guitar.  “My dad used to play guitar for us and I liked the sound of it. “  Francesco said.  “It looked like fun.  So I tried it.”

Francesco takes acoustic guitar lessons from Alex Valencia at the Lindeblad School of Music in Pine Brook.  It was Valencia who told Francesco about the auditions for the Carnegie Hall showcase.  “My teacher gave me a song and I practiced it a lot and I thought ‘Maybe I’m good enough to play this song for the audition’,” he said. “‘Maybe I’m (even) good enough to be picked.’ And I was!”

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Francesco’s mother Marta Luisi noted that 100 students auditioned, 32 were chosen to perform at the showcase and only 29 were invited to play a solo.  Francesco will perform “Adantino in C Major” as his solo to an audience of 400 people.  Francesco said he is excited to play on the same stage which famous cellist Yo-Yo Ma has played.  When asked if he was nervous about performing in front of 400 people Francesco’s brown eyes lit up as he answered an emphatic “yes!”

“On a scale of 1-10, I’m a 52,” he continued.  “I’m so nervous.  I can’t stop thinking about it.”

Francesco admits that he did not consider the reality of playing in front of a large crowd when he first auditioned, but he feels confident he can get past his nerves and play well.  Despite his young age, this is not Francesco’s first concert.  He has previously performed with his father at Montclair State University and will perform there again on June 7 at 1 p.m. 

Francesco practices playing guitar every day and meets with his teacher every other week.  He said he often practices with his dad as well.  Francesco noted that Carnegie Hall will be his first time performing from memory, making practice even more important.

Currently Francesco plays classical songs on his acoustic guitar, but he hopes to learn to play the electric guitar soon because he thinks it’s louder than acoustic and has a different sound.  When it comes to listening to music, Francesco enjoys pop music and named Adam Levine as his favorite musician, when asked if he sings like Levine, Francesco laughed and shouted “no!”

“Do not bring up the singing, please,” he said, pointing out that it is three-year-old sister Giuliana who is the singer in the family. 

In addition to playing guitar, Francesco enjoys participating in sports, including basketball and baseball.  His mother said he is an excellent student and a great big brother to Giuliana and Matthew, 7.  His favorite subject in school is math and he plans to spend some of his summer improving his math skills through a website his teacher provided.  If all of that wasn’t enough to keep him busy, Francesco is writing a book about his brother.

Matthew suffers from Eosinophilic Esophagitis and is allergic to most foods.  In his book Francesco details how Matthew was first diagnosed and how Matthew is regularly tested to see what foods his body will tolerate.  Francesco writes how Matthew is only able to eat eight food items and receives the majority of his nutrition through a feeding tube.  So far he has nine pages written and illustrated, but he says he has much more to say.  His aunt is an author and he hopes to publish his book with her help.  “If I get it published, I’m going to dedicate to Matthew,” Francesco said.

As for the future, Francesco hopes to be a chef and a musician when he grows up.  In the short term, he is looking forward to the summer and to being a South End “Safety” during lunch when he is a fourth grader next year.

“I want to be in charge of the little kids and have them bow down to me,“ he laughed. "Only joking!"

For more information about Eosinophilic Esophagitis, visit http://www.apfed.org.