Student musicians gear up for pope

April 7, 2008 4:15:52 PM PDT
They played at the White House, and now, a group of the local students are gearing up for yet another big performance.The musicians will greet Pope Benedict XVI when he arrives in New York next week.

Eyewitness News reporter Tim Fleischer has more on the students from Brooklyn who will perform for the pope.

Rehearsing five to six hours a day, the students are reaching a crescendo in their own musical education that few will ever achieve.

Accepting a rare invitation, 46 students from Xaverian High School's 14 musical groups are playing at the arrival ceremony for Pope Benedict XVI.

"I was ecstatic," timpani player David Frazier said. "It's a real privelidge to play in front of this stage. It's a real honor for us."

"It's amazing to have the opportunity to play for the pope," trumpet player Stephen Mahon said. "It's a once-in-a-lifetime thing that I'm just really shocked and honored that I get to do this."

"We have no words to describe our pleasant surprise," music director Joseph Loposky said.

The spotlight focuses on the young musicians, 14 of whom had never played an instrument until they started at the school. The musical program, under the direction of Loposky, is achieving prominent acclaim.

They will be performing 11 selections.

"We picked strictly Americana music to perform there, because he's coming to visit America," Loposky said. "So we thought that would be representative of what we do here."

"It really takes a lot of practice," trumpet player Anthony Rodriguez said. "You gotta spend your time at home perfecting little things that you can mess up on, yourself. So once you get it down, it's like, you have to be called for it."

And given this unique opportunity, tuba player Michael Courtien says it gives him a little extra motivation.

"The motivation that it gives you when you're practicing, you know, you really have to get this right because you're playing for the pope," he said. "It's pretty big."

"This is something that, you know, in teaching the boys to handle the pressure, I give it to the highest level," Loposky said. "I want perfection."

And so do Joseph's aspiring musicians.

"We have to put our full potential into it," trumpet player Carl Sanon said. "And once we do that, we know that we're going to be well prepared for it."