Photo Courtesy Jon Taylor Kenai Central High School freshman Olivia Brewer.

Photo Courtesy Jon Taylor Kenai Central High School freshman Olivia Brewer.

KCHS student sings at Carnegie Hall

  • By Kelly Sullivan
  • Monday, February 8, 2016 10:42pm
  • News

This weekend, Kenai Central High School freshman Olivia Brewer sang on stage at Carnegie Hall in New York City.

She was selected out of 18,000 applicants, along with 284 other students worldwide, to join the 2016 High School Honors Performance Series in one of five ensembles that rehearsed, fine-turned and performed pieces in only three days.

“It is quite an honor, singing in a venue like that at this young age,” said Kelli Brewer, Olivia’s mother. “People work all their lives to sing at Carnegie.”

The concert venue is internationally renowned for hosting superior classical and popular musical acts for the past century. Olivia and her fellow finalists arrived Thursday for five days of touring the city, attending high-caliber shows and rehearsing for their own.

The ninth-grader has studied singing for seven years, under the tutelage of various local musical educators including Kenai Middle School music teacher Rosemary Bird and Nikiski North Star Elementary music teacher Audra Faris.

Her interest in the art has much deeper roots.

“My family is very musical,” Olivia said.

Her brother, Duncan Brewer, built his own local reputation years before Olivia started refining her own chops. She began substituting for Duncan at public events when wasn’t available, Kelli Brewer said. Olivia said she has developed a particular stamina for the national anthem, which she has performed on the floor at the State Senate. Throughout the years she has had been a member of the All State Honor Choir, the All Borough Choir, and the American Choral Directors Association, which she was first nominated for at 12 years old.

Her talents didn’t manifest in immediate success, both Olivia and her mother recall.

On the drive to elementary school everyday Kelli recalls her daughter singing so poorly, they took her to a voice coach, who requested the family take Olivia to get her hearing checked because she sang so out of tune.

Once the coach tweaked keys a little and found out she was in fact a soprano, not a tenor as previously believed, everyone discovered Olivia had perfect pitch.

Bird said Olivia has other notable abilities that contributed to the heights she’s reached.

“Number one — her unbelievable range for someone her age,” Bird said. “Two — she worked hard at it to get her audition materials ready, three — she is extremely athletic which gives her an advantage.”

Olivia also swims to keep fit and improve her lung capacity, which affects her ability to hold notes.

“You have to have a keen interest in (singing) and have to love to perform and have to have a certain maturity,” Bird said. “And the music speaks to them, and they are motivated by the depths of the music, and they respond to a wide variety of genres of music, and they have to be confident.”

Bird and Olivia said confidence is one area the young performer struggles with. Olivia said she will “still cry before each performance,” but gets on stage and gratification afterward is always worthwhile.

Preparation does help.

It took Olivia 15 hours of practice to perfect the audition piece that won her the spot in the honor series, but that doesn’t include the years of improving stamina that put her in a place where she could even try out, Kelli said.

Then, it was nearly six weeks of preparing the pieces she would play in New York, Bird said. When the finalists and nationally renowned conductors finally meet, the music is mostly memorized, she said. In fact, if someone shows up not knowing the assignments, they may be politely asked to leave.

Selected students have the chance to learn from peers who have similar talents and abilities and from some of the best instructors in the world, Bird said. And hopefully it inspires a lot of motivation for the participants to improve their skills when they return home, she said.

Olivia said she does see that her future is dependent on music, but indirectly. She plans to be a veterinarian, and securing music scholarships is a good way to get there, she said.

Kelli said she is fine with her daughter taking a different route. She said she knows singing will be something that Olivia can take enjoyment from the rest of her life.

Plus, both mother and daughter agree singing provides access to a good community locally and worldwide.

“It is good to have that part of the brain stimulated,” Kelli said. “And it’s good to challenge yourself no matter what it is.”

 

Reach Kelly Sullivan at kelly.sullivan@peninsulaclarion.com.

More in News

Kinley Ferguson tells Santa Claus what she wants for Christmas during Christmas in the Park festivities on Saturday, Dec. 3, 2022, at Soldotna Creek Park in Soldotna, Alaska. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
Christmas in the Park welcomes the holiday season to Soldotna

Santa headlines celebration with caroling, Nativity, cocoa and fireworks

Children decorate Christmas cookies, part of Christmas Comes to Nikiski festivities on Saturday, Dec. 3, 2022, at Nikiski Community Recreation Center in Nikiski, Alaska. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
Christmas crafts and Santa photos

Nikiski holds start of annual December celebration

A Kenai Peninsula Food Bank truck in the Food Bank parking lot on Aug. 4, 2022, in Soldotna, Alaska (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
Food Bank fundraiser to auction Legos, offer Santa photos to pets

Bark, Block n’ Bowl will take place on Saturday from 1 to 4 p.m.

Gov. Mike Dunleavy, seated left, and Lt. Gov. Nancy Dahlstrom sign their oaths of office during the inauguration ceremony, Monday, Dec. 5, 2022, in Anchorage, Alaska. Dunleavy, a Republican, last month became the first Alaska governor since Democrat Tony Knowles in 1998 to win back-to-back terms. (AP Photo/Mark Thiessen)
Dunleavy, Dahlstrom take oaths of office

Gov. Dunleavy was reelected during the Nov. 8 general election

Alaska State Troopers logo.
Fatal collision near Anchor Point closes highway for hours

Troopers received a call about the collision shortly after noon

Members of the Soldotna Elks Lodge #2706, including Exalted Ruler Robert Dixon and Secretary Shannon Woodford (third and fifth from the left) stand with purchased toys and clothes for donation to local children at the lodge in Soldotna, Alaska, on Friday, Dec. 2, 2022. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
Soldotna Elks to donate toys and clothes to local kids

Yearlong fundraiser brings in more than $13,000

Portions of the Kenai bluff can be seen eroding below Old Town Kenai in this undated photo. (Photo by Aidan Curtin/courtesy Scott Curtin)
Portions of the Kenai bluff can be seen eroding below Old Town Kenai in this undated photo. (Photo by Aidan Curtin/courtesy Scott Curtin)
Infrastructure dollars flood peninsula

Federal infrastructure bill makes available more than $232M for peninsula projects

Soldotna City Hall is seen on Wednesday, June 23, 2021 in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Soldotna bumps vote on use of accessory housing as short-term rentals

An accessory dwelling unit is a subordinate, detached dwelling unit located on a lot or parcel with an existing residence

Foliage surrounds the Soldotna Police Department sign on Tuesday, Aug. 30, 2022 in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Foliage surrounds the Soldotna Police Department sign on Tuesday, Aug. 30, 2022, in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Law enforcement to host women’s self-defense class in January

Within 48 hours of the course being advertised, 120 women had signed up to participate

Most Read