“Oh what joy, in the open air, freely to breathe again,” Sayville High School senior Paige Gaiser sang in October, belting out the lyrics to “Prisoners’ Chorus” from Ludwig van Beethoven’s opera “Fidelio.”
Though the 17-year-old soprano recorded herself singing alone, her vocals were harmoniously intertwined with videos from dozens of other student singers from across the country.
The compilation video, which premiered on the Metropolitan Opera Facebook page Nov. 6, was part of this year’s virtual edition of the Met’s “HD Live in Schools” program. Over 30 elementary and high school students sang “together” through the compiled video.
But the selection process started earlier, Gaiser, of West Sayville, said. She submitted her prerecorded soprano performance of the song for consideration in October, after Sayville chorus director Karen DiMartino told her she was selected by the district.
Initially caught off-guard, Gaiser said she quickly became excited at the opportunity. Then, it was a waiting game. It took longer for the video to be uploaded than it did to contribute her portion, she said.
Sayville School District is one of many districts nationwide enrolled in the “HD Live in Schools” program. According to the Metropolitan Opera website, the program brings opera performances to students nationwide, and brings educator guides, classroom resources and in-person events to schools. Gaiser’s submission was chosen among other participating school districts.
Gaiser became fully invested in music in her freshman year of high school after she transitioned from swimming to singing. Since then, she’s been involved in school musicals and the Drama Club.
“Everyone sings in the shower – that’s everyone’s safe space to sing. If that’s the case, I’ve been committed [to music] for a long time,” Gaiser joked.
Despite the high school’s hybrid-learning model, she’s enrolled in four music-related courses this semester.
Gaiser has music on the horizon, too: the soprano vocalist aspires to be a music therapist and speech-language pathologist. Molloy College in Rockville Centre is her top college choice, and she is waiting to hear back.
In an effort to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, this Met performance was made virtual. Gaiser said she was disheartened by a potential missed opportunity.
“I don’t know what it would’ve looked like if the pandemic wasn’t happening,” Gaiser said. “The thought of being able to meet all of those people and to perform at the Met if the pandemic wasn’t going on is kind of upsetting.”
Nonetheless, the experience was thrilling – and serves as another accomplishment to pop onto her college resume.
“At the end of the day, it is the Met Opera,” Gaiser said.
The experience wouldn’t have been possible without the Sayville music teachers in the department, Gaiser said. She gave an extra “kudos” to DiMartino, her out-of-district vocal teacher Amy McGrath, orchestra teacher Ari Kramer and high school principal Ronald Hoffer.
In a district press release, DiMartino said she was delighted by the news. “We are so proud of her,” she said.
To view the video of the performance, go to the Met Virtual Choir Facebook Link.