With approximately six hours until we took to the stage at Carnegie Hall, we went to the Time’s Square Hard Rock Cafe to eat lunch. I’m sure we were getting SOME looks, because we were already wearing our performance attire (we did not have a place to change in Carnegie Hall). So we were there with our dresses on , our tuxes all put together, excited to take to one of the most renowned performance venues in the world.
Matt Tully met us at Hard Rock, interviewed a few students and chatted about the reality that our big day was finally here. What a thing….19 students from one of the lowest performing schools in Indianapolis (although scores are going up, and statistically I have some of the highest performing students from the school in The ManualAires), were invited to participate in a concert in one of the most amazing venues in the nation. It speaks to the truly high caliber people who live in and around Indianapolis, who gave of their time, energy, and resources to make it a reality.
The 19 students, myself, and my wife were able to go to Carnegie Hall early, backstage, in order for some photos to be taken. This in itself was an amazing thing, because everything there is run so structured. So as the students and I were back stage, I went through some house-keeping things about how to hold their folders properly when we sing, and then we sang…our music. We did not have a piano, even though both songs we sang are traditionally performed with piano, I did not want to be in that place with this amazing group of students and NOT sing OUR music. So, we sang two of our pieces we have performed the longest: Don’t Stop Believin’ (our theme song of sorts, and it has worked out pretty well for us so far!), and What a Wonderful World because in that moment, and at that time there could not have been a much more appropriate song to sing. When we sang the last chord, I asked the students to circle up and hold hands.
When I got them all settled in our circle, I reviewed with them how far we have come. I reminded them that over a year ago I received this email inviting us to sing in the world renowned Carnegie Hall. I reviewed that the community supported us, the community spoke up and said we should sing in Carnegie, the community believes in who they are and what they are doing and they spoke up…and made a good idea become a great opportunity. I reviewed how my Grandpa Max, who was one of our biggest fans, believed so much that he was the first and only person to correctly suggest we would raise three times what we needed. This, of course, was emotional for me because as I have previously mentioned, Grandpa passed away in October. But I assured them, holding back my own tears, that Grandpa Max was in the audience in Spirit and he would be cheering the loudest. Then I told them how incredibly proud I was of them. How truly awesome it was that we, The ManualAires were backstage at Carnegie Hall, getting ready to sing. when I was done speaking, I instructed everyone to be quiet for one minute and while they were quiet, they needed to think of a very brief phrase or word to describe our time in NYC.
As I went around the circle, one at a time the students voiced their thoughts. Some laughing, some trying to hold back tears, others with them already running down their cheeks, they spoke of the group being their family, the voiced that the trip had been perfect in every way, one even summed it up in two words, Chinatown and Carnegie Hall. I think it finally set in. I think most of them finally understood, or at least were closer to understanding what it really meant to sing in Carnegie Hall. I shared one final thought with the choir before allowing them to dry their eyes and finish preparing to go onstage. I simply expressed to them that I would not rather be in that place, at that moment with any other group of people. I told them none of them were in that room on accident. I finished by saying that this is only the beginning, and that Carnegie Hall was a pretty good place to start, after all it is the greatest stage in the world.
We fight. We argue. We disagree. We laugh. We smile. We cry. We’re a family. From the beginning till the end. That’s the way it’s been. We have our ups. We have our downs. We have our moments. We have our fights. We share our laughers. We share our pain. Working together got us where we are today. Carnegie Hall. The beginning of a story. The beginning of our journey. Being led by a man who plays the role of the father in this family. I wouldn’t have it any other way. Because we’ve worked for everything we have accomplished. We proved everyone Wrong. We do not hold the imagine of slum bags that we are presume to have. We go far beyond that and prove everyone wrong. We are The ManualAires, the brightest of the bright. Hold on to tonight guys because things like these come once in a life. Lupe.
These past few days have been extraordinary. When I made the final walk onto the Carnegie Hall stage, I stood amazed. It took everything not to cry when I was thinking about how this is my senior year and soon we will all part our own ways, not to say some will still continue to be my friends. My roommates and I are packing and it is sad to know that we have to leave this great city but are happy to return home to Indiana to share our stories with the Indianapolis community. Well goodnight for now, today has been wonderful (crystal)