HIGHLIGHTING HAPPINESS: Students bring songs from Florida to New York

By: Andrew Campanella

Last Upated: April 15, 2021



Students from Indian River Charter High School in Vero Beach, Florida had the opportunity of a lifetime when they performed at Carnegie Hall.

Indian River Charter High School by Andrew Campanella with Savanna Buckner

The faces of high school students at Indian River Charter High School (IRCHS) lit up as they received backstage passes and filed into the rehearsal hall. Soon they would step onto the stage of one of the most incredible performance halls in the world— Carnegie Hall— and begin to sing.

“The Hall is majestic in its appearance and the students were just wide-eyed. It was beautiful to watch,” described Cynthia Trevino-Aversa, director of the Vero Beach charter school.  

Indian River Charter School celebrates school choiceAs Trevino-Aversa pointed out, IRCHS isn’t a professional music school. It’s just a regular high school… that happens to have an amazing performing arts department.

Since 2005, students from IRCHS have performed at Carnegie Hall four times!

Ray Adams, assistant director at the school and a talented conductor, has helped facilitate the trips, and has seen the performances make an impact.

“I posted on my Facebook page that I was doing this trip,” he said, “and several former IRCHS students wrote back and said, ‘I remember when we did that, it was truly life-changing – one of the experiences I will never forget.’”

One IRCHS alumna even drove two hours to watch this year’s performance.

Adams described, “She said, ‘I wouldn’t miss this for the world because I remember what it was like when I got to do it and these kids have no idea how this will impact their lives.’”

Indian River Charter School celebrates school choiceThe distance from Florida to New York may seem long, but hard-working students and staff members at IRCHS are used to going the extra mile for the sake of a great opportunity.

“Anytime you’re doing something this major, it requires a tremendous amount of discipline and dedication and willingness on a student’s part to rehearse things over and over and over to get to the right level,” Adams said.  

Savannah Tanner, a 17-year old soprano in the IRCHS Choir who performed a solo at Carnegie Hall, agreed.

“There was a very dedicated process that was required as a student,” she said. “We had this sheet music that we studied very hard. I remember I actually had to study for several weeks the different solos and special areas of the piece, so it took a lot of extra time outside of school.”

Tanner said that not only was the hard work worth it, but the experience also strengthened her desire to pursue a career in a vocal craft.

She sees the Carnegie Hall experience as an example of what makes IRCHS so special: teachers and artists who find dynamic ways to share the love of their craft with students.

“They have that passion that goes beyond a school common core mindset,” Tanner said. “It’s reaching to a higher craft and ideal.”

That passion is contagious, and has gathered an impressive array of professional musicians, dancers, and performers in the small city, showing how talented educational leaders can inspire students anywhere to discover happiness.

You could hear Tanner’s enthusiasm as she said, “I’ve heard of other schools doing maybe a special festival where they are featured and it sounds nice, but how often do you hear about a little high school in a small town being front and center at one of the most prestigious performance places in the world?”

Indian River Charter School


Read more: 5 Questions for Ray Adams, Cynthia Trevino-Aversa, and Savannah Tanner, Indian River Charter High School

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