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Young virtuoso receives news that is ‘music to her ears’

3rd June 2013   ·   0 Comments

By Kelly Parker
Contributing Writer

While our city is known as the birthplace of jazz, a local teen will be representing the state by sharing her gift through another musical genre.

Cellist Angelique Montes, a recent NOCCA (New Orleans Center for the Creative Arts) and Ben Franklin grad, was chosen amongst an elite group of classical musicians; taking part in the inaugural National Youth Orchestra of the United States of America. Montes, 17, is part of a group of 120 young musicians Carnegie Hall has chosen as the top young orchestral players in the country, and she’s the only Louisianian to take part in the program.

Photo by Elizabeth McMillan, NOCCA

Photo by Elizabeth McMillan, NOCCA

“I’m still like…’Wow, this is actually happening,’” she laughs.

Montes will get the enviable opportunity to tour internationally with the group and work with renowned violinist Joshua Bell and conductor Valery Gergiev. After a two-week residency on the Purchase College (State University of New York) campus, the group will perform at the Kennedy Center in Washington D.C., and tour at halls in Moscow, London and St. Petersburg.

Though she’s lived in New York, Iowa and Virginia, being part of the NYO will allow her to see the world like never before.

“I’ve never been to Europe,” she said. “The farthest I’ve been out of the country is to Haiti or Canada. Getting to play with Joshua Bell and being conducted by Valery Gergiev will be awesome. I’ll also look forward to meeting new people—musicians that are interested in the same things I’m interested in. I just enjoy being in that atmosphere.”

Montes auditioned for the orchestra, at the suggestion of her mother, who teaches orchestra at Edna Karr High School.

“I didn’t know what I was getting myself into, but I figured I’d try for a chance to travel to Europe, Montes says. “The closer it got to the (time to learn the results), the more I wanted to do it. I was like, ‘I really want to do this,’ and when I found out I was ecstatic!”

Music definitely runs in Montes’ family. Her parents moved to the United States from Haiti to study music. In addition to her mother, her father plays classical and jazz trumpet with various groups in the city. Both of her younger siblings play the piano.

“The cello is kind of like my best friend,” she says, “I guess I’ve grown with it.

The love affair began early on for Montes, who began playing at the age of five. The Port-au-Prince Haiti native was drawn to a cello group that played in an open field during a trip Montes took with her mother.

“My mom was helping out with a summer music camp during a visit to Haiti,” Montes says. “There was this huge cello choir that would rehearse in this big field, and I would sit right in the center and listen to them play, and I just fell in love with the music.”

Montes told The Louisiana Weekly how moving to New Orleans and the NOCCA experience allowed her to gain perspective on the art form.

“Before I moved to NOLA, I was in a jazz string quartet (in Virginia) we played jazz music, but it wasn’t like jazz here in New Orleans,” she told The Louisiana Weekly. “Liv­ing here and being able to go to NOCCA, listening to jazz ensembles and meeting people like the Marsalises; it helped me realize that though it’s jazz and it’s a different genre from classical, it’s all music, and we all play it for the same reason; and that’s to express ourselves though it, or relay a message.”

Balancing close to three hours of practice daily and a rigorous academic schedule at Ben Franklin likely prepared Montes for the upcoming chapter in her life. After taking part in the program; which lasts about four weeks total, Montes will return to New Orleans, but not for long. She received a scholarship to Oberlin College in Oberlin, Ohio; one of the top music conservatories in the country.

“Now that it’s all done, I can definitely say that it was all worth it,” Angelique says.

This article originally published in the June 3, 2013 print edition of The Louisiana Weekly newspaper.

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