TRAVERSE CITY — It's probably the only chance they will have to set foot on such a special stage, Ellen Boyer explained looking out from her Traverse City Central High School classroom office toward a group of her symphony students rehearsing nearby.
The gravity of an invitation to play on the Kennedy Center stage probably won't hit most of them until they touch the stage, she said. The same stage where all of the greatest names in music have played.
Boyer has been trying to impress on 60 of her students what a special opportunity they've been given with an invitation to play in Washington, D.C., in March.
"To play in a great hall is, we wouldn't call it life-changing, but it is a big deal," she said. "I don't think they'll get it until we walk into the building. In all of my years here, that was the first invitation. I wasn't going to sit on it."
Boyer began teaching music 26 years ago and has been teaching at Central High School for 16 years, but never has she been invited to bring a group a students to the Kennedy Center. This year, her students were invited to play as part of the Capital Music Festival, a four day event that features high school orchestras.
The last trip she took with a group of students outside of Michigan was four years ago to San Francisco.
"When I read the invitation, I ran with it," she said.
Organizers asked Boyer to send them recordings of her students playing to finish the acceptance process. They passed with flying colors, she said.
Ellis Begley, 18, played his violin alongside his classmates in the rehearsal room nearby. The group spent Monday afternoon dusting off its strings after summer break. They prepared for a concert scheduled for Oct. 5. But it is the March performance that has everybody's attention, Begley said.