gmhTODAY 19 gmhToday April May 2018 - Page 95

O n Sunday February 4, Gilroy High School students and twin sisters, Alix and Ailyn Betancourt, joined their classmate Sloane Pace as they sang in the Honors Performance Series Choir at Carnegie Hall, New York to a sold out audience of nearly 2,000 people. The seventeen-year-old seniors have been singing and playing music for much of their lives, including through their church choir, caroling at the holidays, in a local mariachi band, and of course through their school choir. Their music has taken them to Costa Rica and other regional locations, but neither of them ever expected to be performing at Carnegie Hall. They were encouraged to apply to the honors choir by their choir director, Jonathan Souza, of Gilroy, who nominates several students every year for various honor choirs regionally, statewide and nationally. “These students show a high aptitude for music and are often leaders and considerable contributors to our choral ensembles at Gilroy High School,” Souza told TODAY . The students he chooses are highly focused and up to the “challenging experience of singing in an elite honor choir,” he said. “They are also good citizens, have a strong work ethic and are singing ambassadors for our program and the larger Gilroy community.” From the sisters’ point of view, however, they would not have thought to apply to the choir without Souza’s encouragement. “Our choir director said if we wanted to do it he would fully support us,” Ailyn said. “Any advice we needed, or anything to record with, he would help us. Performing at Carnegie Hall is so prestigious, it’s not something that anybody here really does, so I wanted to audition.” Alix admitted that she was nervous but said she told herself, “Maybe I’ll get in or I won’t, but at least I’ll know I tried.” Only eight students were initially nominated, which narrowed down to just four, including the twins. They were also both nervous that only one of them might be accepted since they’re accustomed to doing most things together. Ailyn was dubious about her chances of getting accepted, even after they had finished their audition recording. “She had a lot of self-doubt, but in the end it paid off,” Alix said of her sister. “I felt a lot more confident just by being accepted,” Ailyn shared. And performing itself “boosted my confidence as a singer.” When they finally learned that they both had been accepted, Alix said, “We were just so happy and we felt gmh GILROY • MORGAN HILL • SAN MARTIN so lucky and grateful. I would have felt alone if she didn’t get in,” Alix said. Going to New York itself, where they had never been, was an exciting adventure for the sisters who have grown up in Gilroy. “It was so different from Gilroy with its valleys and mountains. New York is all skyscrapers and lights,” Alix said. The sisters took a tour of the Statue of Liberty, walking all the way up inside the huge statue, and got to see a Broadway musical. But the highlight, of course, was their actual performance, which left Alix feeling confident and happy. “It boosted my confidence. It makes me think I’m a pretty good singer and I definitely want to continue singing in some way.” Souza describes the process, which he has participated in for many years as choral director, as a journey. “We go on a journey together…in which at first they may be unsure of what is ahead.” Preparing for the event takes a lot of trust between the conductor and the musicians, he said. “When I see my students participate in an honors ensemble I see years of work, commitment and passion manifesting itself into choral majesty.” Though neither girl intends to make a career of music, both imagine keeping their toes in the musical waters in one way or another. As for the future, Alix wants to study to become an ultrasound technician, and Ailyn wants to go into veterinary medicine. Despite having spent their lives side- by- side, they don’t plan to attend the same college. “We’ll miss each other but it’ll be good to be a little bit independent of each other,” Alix said. “We’re together all the time. From eighth grade until junior year we had the same exact school schedule,” Ailyn added. Alix said that while she wants to go and see the world, ultimately she imagines she will come back to Gilroy. “I feel really connected here, so I don’t want to live so far away that I can’t come in a drives time.” Souza is proud of them regardless of what they go on to do. He feels they learned a lot from the process. “They [learned] to work collaboratively with strangers, listen to an expert they do not know—the guest conductor—and create music. They learned that they must always contribute their best…and bring their best self to the task at ha