Imagine performing to a sold out Severance Hall for two nights in your hometown. Now imagine Grammy-award winning Jason Mraz performing right next to you. This scenario was reality for three of our students this summer as they had the opportunity to perform alongside Jason Mraz as part of the Contemporary Youth Orchestra. Lucas Tai '19, Max Gibson '20 and Charlie Proctor '21 took the stage to perform in this concert that was about much more than just entertainment.
For Lucas, who attended preschool at The Music School Settlement, this concert transcended catchy tunes. "We had a sense of purpose. We were not only creating something beautiful but also spreading awareness for music education. Throughout the orchestra, I sensed a certain confidence. Confidence in not only our abilities but also our message. We started to move not as solo and accompaniment but as One."
"Every year, the Contemporary Youth Orchestra does something unique and special – annual side-by-side performances with rock artists," Lucas Tai says. "In my five years as part of CYO, I have had the opportunity to perform alongside Graham Nash, Tommy Shaw, Styx, Melissa Etheridge, Kenny Loggins, and Jason Mraz."
CYO includes musicians aged 12 to 18 representing 64 schools in Ohio and inspires young people to discover their full potential through creativity and performance. Lucas auditioned for the orchestra as a violinist when he was in eighth grade and was admitted as one of its youngest members.
Charlie Proctor's story started earlier when his mother attended a Jason Mraz concert in 2005. Following the show, she met Mraz backstage and couldn't stop talking about her toddler at home who she already knew was a musical child. It was in that moment Mraz took out his pen and penned the following message to Charlie,
You have the same name as my best friend!
Love your mother!
Fourteen years later, Charlie was chosen to sing a duet with Jason Mraz on stage at Severance Hall. "I started to rehearse with Jason Mraz for the song we were going to perform on stage called Frank D. Fixer," Charlie explains. "He wrote the song about his grandfather who he loved and admired very much. I am very close to my grandfather so it was a very special song to sing together."
Charlie sang with the Cleveland Orchestra's Children's Chorus for four years performing at Severance Hall nearly 40 times prior to this performance. He knew at an early age he had a passion for singing and acting. Charlie and his mom both consider this latest opportunity as the work of the Holy Spirit.
"My mom always told me that if I was ever nervous about singing that I just needed to call upon the Holy Spirit and when I opened my mouth to sing, the Holy Spirit would come through," Charlie says. "I sang with Jason Mraz on Saturday and Sunday. That Sunday was Pentecost Sunday when we celebrate the Holy Spirit descending down upon the disciples and gave power to the believers. Well, I am a believer. I know that God has a plan for me and I am listening and ready to receive."
For these young men music is part of what makes them who they are. But it doesn't come without hard work.
"I got involved with CYO because I like to play the trumpet and I like contemporary music," Max Gibson says. "To perform in this capacity, I had to dedicate a lot of my time to rehearsal in order to perfect each aspect of the concert at Severance Hall."
Through hard work and personal commitment each young musician has overcome challenges to get to where he is today. The reward? Unforgettable moments like these.