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Famed Opera Singer Placido Domingo To Be Conductor For NYC Students At Gala

Harmony Program students practice in Harlem. (credit: CBS 2)

Harmony Program students practice in Harlem. (credit: CBS 2)

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NEW YORK (CBS 2) — On Wednesday night, opera superstar Placido Domingo will spread the love of music to some of his youngest fans.

He’ll take the stage with New York City school children in Harlem, where some of the kids are rehearsing for the performance of a lifetime.

At PS-129, the top musicians from the Harmony Program are getting ready for Wednesday night’s big gala and their conductor will be Placido Domingo.

“I’m going to meet the most famous opera singer in the world and I’m going to be very happy to see him,” 9-year-old Johann Arias told CBS 2’s Cindy Hsu.

Domingo is being honored Wednesday by the program that has nearly 100 students in Harlem and Brooklyn. They are learning about music 2 hours after school, 5 days a week.

“It’s not just about reading the notes on the page or playing a song on a stage. It’s really about teaching children the skills that they can apply to their academics,” Executive Director of the Harmony Program, Annie Fitzgibbon, said. “Children through music learn how to focus, how to concentrate, how to work with others.”

“This program means a lot to us because we get to learn new music, and we get to be with our instruments and we get to do it for free, so it’s a real privilege for us,” 10-year-old Alexalee Gonzalez said.

The goal is to reach children in schools that don’t have the resources to sustain their own bands and orchestras. The students go through a rigorous application process and have applied that same commitment to learning all about the Maestro.

“He was born in Spain in 1941, and he grew up in Mexico. He wrote 9 books,” 10-year-old Denise Guzman said.

“His first concert was in New York in 1965,” Arias said.

Along with all the facts rolling around in their heads are lots of questions.

“Who was his favorite opera singer teacher and how did he learn to sing opera and how did he learn how to conduct?” asked Khaliq Rodriguez.

“I want to ask him, when did he start making music, when did he start being a conductor?” Mohamed Camara said.

And if the Maestro asks the kids about their dreams, they had plenty of responses ready.

“Be a trumpet player,” Arias said.

“Keep on playing the violin,” said Rodriguez.

“I want to be a trumpet player,” 9-year-old Jordan Clark said.

Whether the students change their minds as they grow up, the seeds have been planted and the passion they play with is clear.

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