Determination Propels Vocalists to a Premiere Stage


By Jennifer Erickson | LB Indy

A famous joke asks, “How do you get to Carnegie Hall?” The answer is “practice, practice, practice.”

According to Roxanna Ward, the music director at Laguna Beach High School, that is exactly why junior Sarah Busic and sophomore Karina Parker gained entrée to a revered venue and symbol of musical success.

Sarah and Karina will add their voices to the annual American High School Honors Performance in Carnegie Hall’s Stern Auditorium on Feb. 19. Ward’s foresight led to the nomination, but their own self- discipline and vocal skills aced the auditions.

Before heading east, local audiences will have a chance to hear Karina and Sarah in a live performance-fundraiser at 6:30 p.m. this Sunday, Jan. 16, at Agostino’s Ristorante Italiano in Capistrano Beach. The $30 per person tab includes appetizers, salad, a choice of three entrees, and a third of the proceeds will help send the girls to Carnegie Hall. For reservations, call 949-661-8266 after 4 p.m.

Presented by Field Studies International, the American High School Performance series offers talented students the chance to rehearse and perform under master conductors before an audience that includes invited representatives from colleges and professional music programs. Music directors from across the country and Canada are invited to nominate students, who must apply and submit an audition recording. Selections are made by music professionals to participate in the honors choir or instrumental ensemble.

Ward, who is mailed countless come-ons from less reputable event planners, was impressed with the series. “This one was different,” she said, because of audition requirements. “The combination of a world class conductor and singing with your peers, people of your caliber and better, is something you don’t get to do very often unless you’re a professional,” she said.

Eph Ehly, Charles Peltz, and Jeffrey Grogan will conduct the choir, orchestra and band, respectively, for this year’s event.

The significance of the opportunity is not lost on the girls, either. “I am so excited about all that I am going to learn. I love that part,” Karina said. Likewise, Sarah appreciates the chance to sing on the Carnegie Hall stage simply “because so many legends have performed there.”

The girls are ready for the challenge, said Ward. Having known both girls since grammar school, she is familiar with their gifted voices, but also known their focus and determination to improve and grow. “I wouldn’t have recommended them if I didn’t think they could do it,” she said. “They are always right on it,” she added, showing up prepared and knowing their material.

“I’m really pleased that they got this opportunity to go to Carnegie Hall,” agreed voice teacher Christin Cornell, who has been coaching Karina and Sarah for over three and four years, respectively, in opera and art song in Italian, French, German and English. As a testament to their dedication, she said both have memorized 20 to 30 operatic arias in most romance languages. They have also sung and won awards in a number of competitions and take master classes in opera each year at USC’s Thornton School of Music.

The range of their repertoire defies expectations. For her audition CD, Sarah sang “O War Ich Shon Mit Dir Vereint,” “Do Not Go My Love,” and “The Light In the Piazza.” She discovered a love for singing as a fifth-grader performing in a talent show and took equal pleasure in adopting the persona of a character after performing in her first play.

“You’re put in this totally different situation and you get to use your past experiences and memories to influence that character,” said the 16-year-old aspiring diva, who plans to pursue a career in musical theater.

Besides singing in the high school chorus, and private coaching from several instructors, Sarah recently landed a starring role in the upcoming high school production of “Footloose.” She also plans to perform two numbers in the spring dance concert and is involved in several clubs at school.

“Music is the most beautiful thing in the world,” said Karina, who started singing as a toddler and plans to major in music in college.

She has a head start on the college application and audition process. She made three audition recordings before settling on one to send off for Carnegie Hall consideration. “I was just honored to get nominated,” said the modest 15-year-old, who did not anticipate that she would be accepted.

In addition to a similar schedule of high school chorus, private lessons and competitions, Karina will be starring opposite Sarah in “Footloose” and will soon be auditioning for Treasure Island, a Laguna Playhouse’s youth theater production. On the side, she teaches members of the Boys and Girls Club to sing, dance, act and cheer.

Besides over-booked schedules, both girls seem exuberant about their activities and still find time for community service; Karina works as a child care provider at her church and Sarah as secretary of Zero Trash Laguna.

“They are just exceptional and they are both lovely,” said Ward, who noted their impact among peers in the high school’s vocal department. She’s grateful that “we have them for another year or two.”

Photo by Ted Reckas

Roxana Ward plays piano while Sarah Busic, left, and Karina Parker r

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