Lucas Smith’s first visit to Washington, D.C., will be monumental in more ways than one. Hailing from Plant City, Fla., a small town best known for cultivating strawberries, this history buff will not only be touring the famous National Mall memorials and museums he’s read about. He’ll also be performing June 18 with Florida Gulf Coast University’s Wind Orchestra at one of the country’s most renowned arts venues, The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.
“It’s a huge honor to be able to play where a lot of great musicians have played before,” the 18-year-old music education major says. “To have an opportunity like this while still this young is phenomenal. It’s a step into performing at a high level.”
On June 15, Smith and about 50 other student musicians will return to campus from summer break to rehearse before spending June 16-19 in the nation’s capital. Instructor Troy Jones and Visiting Professor Gary Green will conduct them in a program of classical and contemporary music.
“We are always excited for the opportunity to perform regardless of the venue. But, to do so at such a prestigious and important performance hall like the Kennedy Center with such talented and inspired young people makes this performance all the more special,” Jones says. “I am honored to be a part of the experience.”
The Wind Orchestra’s previous highest-profile performance was playing New York City’s Carnegie Hall in 2015.
“It’s a fantastic educational opportunity and experience for students to perform on one of the premier stages in the United States,” says Cathy Albergo, director of FGCU’s Bower School of Music & the Arts. “Many of these students will go on to become school band directors taking groups on tours, so it shows them how to prepare and how to play at that level.”
That’s the career Anthony Claro, 20, of Naples has his heart set on when he graduates in about two years with his music education degree. He’s been studying trumpet since sixth grade and has been playing in FGCU’s Jazz Ensemble, Symphonic Band and Basketball Band in addition to Wind Orchestra since transferring last year from the University of South Florida. He’s also gaining valuable experience as the newly elected president of FGCU’s Kappa Kappa Psi chapter, a service and leadership recognition society for band members.
“This is all going to help me when I go to get a job,” Claro says. “I didn’t think I would ever play at a place like the Kennedy Center. I think it will help me with my confidence level. I’m really excited to play, especially with all of my peers. This trip is going to be a bonding moment that will make everyone who’s coming back next year a little bit closer. It’s a lot more than just a trip.”
Adding to the magnitude of the experience, the Wind Orchestra will introduce a Washington-area audience to“Requiem Dances for Children,” a work inspired by the tragic mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in February. James M. Stephenson composed the requiem on commission for the Bower School, and the orchestra performed its world premiere in April at Artis-Naples.
“It’s a beautiful piece — it pulls at your heart and shows what music can mean,” says Smith, who also plays in FGCU’s Saxophone Quartet, Symphonic Band, Jazz Ensemble and Basketball Band. “To work with a living composer and learn firsthand what he wants to convey is an amazing experience.”