From Chugiak to Carnegie Hall

Wednesday, January 29, 2014 - 23:00
Orchestra student to perform in High School Honors series
Chugiak High senior Ashleigh Bransky will play viola at Carnegie Hall next week as part of the prestigious High School Honors Performance Series.

What does Chugiak High senior Ashleigh Bransky have in common with Duke Ellington, Billie Holiday and Ike and Tina Turner?

They’ve all played at the prestigious Carnegie Hall in New York City.

And next week, Bransky will play there, too.

Bransky has been selected for the 2014 High School Honors Performance Series.

She’ll perform as violist in the Honors Orchestra, comprised of outstanding student musicians from across the country, and the world.

“Being selected to the Honors Performance Series is something each finalist should be extremely proud of accomplishing,” said Morgan Smith, program director.

The program processes thousands of nominations each year and selects those to consider at the highest tier.

“Working with these conductors and performing at Carnegie Hall is a once-in-a-lifetime experience that these students never forget,” he said.

Bransky is currently a member of the Chugiak High School Symphonic Strings, the Chugiak High School Swing Choir and Anchorage Youth Symphony (AYS).

She started playing the viola back in fifth grade.

“My elementary school down in Florida didn’t have a band program, just a teacher who started a string class,” she said. “My older sister chose the violin, and I didn’t want to be like her so I chose the viola.”

The viola, she explained, produces deeper notes that a violin.

“I’m glad I chose the viola. I like being part of a big sound,” she said.

Bransky takes private lessons from Nina Bingham, of the Violin and Viola Studio.

“I was struggling with the Anchorage Youth Symphony because it’s really hard,” she said.

Her school orchestra leans toward what she called “popping” music. She prefers the more classical selections chosen by the AYS.

“It’s challenging and I like the sound of it,” she said.

After Bransky learned of her Honors Performance Series nomination, she recorded her audition tape on her iPhone and sent it off.

She received an acceptance notice at the end of October.

“I actually had a medical procedure that day and my mom was driving me home and I read it on her phone and said, ‘Oh my god, I made it.’”

One of the pieces she’ll be playing at Carnegie Hall is Tchaikovsky Symphony No. 4, a work known for its emotional urgency.

“I know there will be people better than me and that kind of makes me nervous,” she said. “Still, I think it’s going to feel really awesome.”

As part of the High School Honors group, Bransky will sightsee around New York City, attend a Broadway show, visit Ellis Island and tour the “Today” show.

“I’m so excited,” she said.

She arrives in New York City next week, a place she’s never visited before. Due to financial constraints, she’ll fly out alone, without her parents.

This, she said, will be good practice since she’s currently waiting on acceptance letters from a variety of East Coast colleges, where she plans on pursuing a medical degree.

“I don’t feel I have what it takes to be a professional musician plus I want to do something different,” she said.

Music, she added, is her main hobby.

“I’m not a sports person or an art person, so music has become who I am,” she said. “It’s just what I do.”

Bransky has set up a Go Fund Me page to help out with her Carnegie hall expenses. Donations can be made at


Reach Star reporter Cinthia Ritchie at 694-2727 or [email protected].

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