Back to the Big Apple: Two Colusa High School band students headed back to Carnegie Hall for Honors Performance Series


With a pool of 18,000 applicants from around the world and a two-percent acceptance rate, making the cut for the High School Honors Performance Series at Carnegie Hall is a tremendous accomplishment. For a pair of Colusa High School band students, it has become an annual tradition.

Alec Schantz and Josh Arce will be headed back to New York in February to perform at Carnegie Hall with some of the best young musicians from the United States and abroad.

Schantz, a senior clarinetist at Colusa High, has made the trip in three consecutive years. Arce, a junior who auditioned on the alto saxophone, is headed back for the second year in a row.

“Two percent make it in, and in the last six years, 80-percent of applicants from Colusa have made it in, which is pretty good,” said Mary Colligan, Colusa’s music teacher.

The application process began last spring, when Schantz and Arce were nominated by long-time Colusa music teacher Michael Phenicie, who retired after last year.

In years past, Colusa High School’s applicants had until June to perfect their selected pieces before sending off their three- to five-minute recordings for their audition. Because of Phenicie’s imminent retirement, Schantz and Arce had to send those recordings off two months sooner.

“To enable us to send our audition tapes, we needed (Phenicie’s) nomination. For that to count, he still had to be our teacher,” Arce said.

Despite the shortened deadline, both Arce and Schantz were able to impress the board of music professionals that reviewed the audition tapes. The pair again be working with conductor Kenneth Ozzello, the Director of Bands and Professor of Music at the University of Alabama.

“I’m definitely looking forward to what he does new this year,” Arce said.

Arce and Schantz will be performing before an audience that will include specially invited collegiate music program representatives. For two students who plan on pursuing a career in music, it’s a great opportunity to make connections. Schantz said he plans to pursue a four-year degree in Music Education at Chico State, and teach music after graduating — preferably at the high school level.

“I don’t really want go to junior high, but you gotta do what you gotta do,” Schantz said with a laugh.

Acre plans to major in Music Performance after graduating from Colusa High School next year, and he is currently eying the University of Michigan as his landing spot.

For now, the two are focused on the trip to Carnegie Hall and raising the funds needed to get them there. They doing so by performing in a quartet at various events throughout the county, including the St. Stephens Chocolate Festival and Christmas Tyme in Colusa last week.

“We have $1,000 right now, so we’re 20-percent of the way there,” Schantz said.

“Basically, at this point, it’s any opportunity to play. We’re playing for donations and that sort of thing,” Colligan said. “In the next two weeks, we have five more things, on top of the three that we’ve done already. We’re just trying to get as much as we can by the end of December, which is when everything is due.”

Colligan added that groups interested in having the quartet play can contact her for more information.

“Any time we don’t have a conflict at this point, we are (open to playing),” she said.

Brian Pearson
Brian Pearson is the Managing Editor & Reporter for the Williams Pioneer Review. Brian joined the Williams Pioneer Review in June 2016 and is committed to bringing hyperlocal news to its readers. A few of his projects include reporting on local government and the newly feature sports page. To contact Brian about this article, or for future articles, please email him at