Houston-area students performing at inaugural events


Some Houston-area students will have front row seats to all of the inaugural action. The young musicians are bound for Washington, D.C. to perform. 

“Initially, I thought, ‘How much school am I going to miss? I have to keep up with my studies.' It is exciting though,” explains the oh so studious Cypress Fairbanks High School viola player Grant Velasquez. His parents should be proud!. 

13 Houston-area students are preparing for a performance of a lifetime. They have secured Secret Service clearance and are now on the calendar to play for President-Elect Donald Trump.

”To witness the 58th Presidential inauguration and to be a part of the celebration of democracy and freedom is not a small thing," says Cypress Ranch High School violin player Leilani Lawton with a smile. "I'm super excited.” 

Students in Virtuosi of Houston, a pre-professional orchestra for gifted young people, have been invited to play at several presidential inaugural events in Washington, D.C. Seven of the students come from the Cypress Fairbanks Independent School District.

”I'm so lucky," says Cypress Lakes High School All-State cello player Jesse Serpas, followed by a laugh. "I feel blessed.”

“They will play for a candlelight Congressional dinner on Wednesday night," explains Virtuosi of Houston director of orchestra operations Karen Needham. "On Thursday we will play at the biggest Texas party that happens every four years in Washington, D.C. It's called Black Tie and Boots. 10,000 people attend the event.” 

“You would never think that high school students in an orchestra would play at these types of events.  It's just very exciting,” adds Serpas.

“It’s a pleasure to get to teach them every day," says Cypress Fairbanks High School orchestra director Kevin Ray with a smile. "We’re all just really happy for them that they get to embark on this really great journey.” 

“In my ten years of teaching, this is big for having a student doing a performance of this caliber,” says Cypress Lakes High School orchestra director Natalie Koepp with a smile of her own.

“Out of the 13 going, only one has ever been in Washington, D.C., and a couple of them have never been on an airplane before,” says Needham.

“It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity," explains Langham Creek High School Orchestra Director Melissa Shideler. "It’s not something that’s going to, most likely, be presented to them again.” 

17-year-old Leilani Lawton almost missed out. She thought about quitting violin a year ago. “I didn't see myself going anywhere," says Lawton. "I didn't see me making a difference in people's lives with music.”

”They are very talented and somewhat overlooked because of what their interests are,” says Needham.  

“Music can touch people in ways that words can't," adds Lawton. "You can really lift people. I just love sharing the joy of music with other people.”

The Houston-based donors sponsoring the trip have set up a limousine service to pick up and drop off the students every day while their away. The students are leaving on Wednesday, Jan. 18, and staying in suites at a fancy Washington D.C. hotel.  

Certainly a life-changing trip. 

”We're ready to play our hearts out in D.C.,” says Lawton, smiling.

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