For Antonio Centenera, an eighth-grader at St. Patrick School in Carlisle, the way to get to Carnegie Hall is more than just practice.
A combination of natural skill, support at home and encouragement in school and extracurriculars has led the 14-year-old student to earn a spot performing this June at the world-renowned New York City venue.
Antonio’s audition for the American Association for Development of the Gifted and Talented earned him a gold medal and a performance spot in the Weill Recital Hall of Carnegie Hall on June 23. He’ll be one of 16 pianists in eight age groups to share that honor.
Antonio’s mother, JoAnn, said she and her husband Billy can only take credit for introducing Antonio and his fraternal twin brother Jose to music at an early age. The boys’ musical aptitude is something they both demonstrated early on and have pursued at their own wishes.
“From his very first lesson at the age of 4 ½, I could tell that Antonio had a real appreciation for music and rhythms,” Centenera said. “He didn’t just bang away on the piano keys like most toddlers his age would do. He played on the keys purposefully and would respond to the sounds he was creating.”
By 8, Antonio composed his first song. At 10, his first orchestral arrangement made its debut at the St. Patrick School band’s Spring Fine Arts Night recital.
Antonio auditioned for the Carnegie Hall competition with the complex Toccata in D Minor by Prokofiev. While he clearly can master the technicalities, it’s the more creative side of music that has Antonio hooked.
“I love the expressive side of music,” he said. “The goal is to make a unique interpretation of the piece, and to put your own style into the notes of the composer. That’s why I love it so much. Playing the piano is like pouring my very soul out onto the keys; it’s like singing a song.”
But just because it’s enjoyable doesn’t mean Antonio doesn’t work at it. He practices every day and puts in a few hours every weekend. Antonio and his mom credit his piano teacher of nearly 10 years, Ann Shurtz, with helping to nurture his gift.
“Ann has this unique ability to inspire young people to become passionate musicians,” Centenera said. “Music has become like a second language to him.”
“We are very grateful to all of Antonio’s teachers at St. Patrick School who have helped him develop into the responsible and faith-filled young man he has become so far,” she said. “A lot of credit goes out to teachers Karen Berry (music), Sheila McKim (choir) and Lisa Delaney (band), who have helped foster his passion for music over the years.”
Despite his successes, Antonio views music as something that will stay more fun than work in the future. In fact, he has some big ideas when it comes to where his career path may lead.
“Right now I do think of piano as more of a hobby than a professional goal. I think that God gave me this great gift to help people, but I don’t know how yet,” he said.
“I’ve been thinking for some time now that I might be called to the priesthood; I really enjoy bringing people closer to Christ,” Antonio said. “I want everything that I do with God’s gifts to be for His glory.”
(Lisa Maddux is the Development Director for Saint Patrick School in Carlisle, www.spscarlisle.org.)
By Lisa Maddux, Special to The Witness