Ethan Clay began cultivating classical music dreams as a fifth-grader cellist in Chicago. One of those dreams shared by musicians across the globe, playing Carnegie Hall, becomes a reality this week when the Zachary High junior takes the renowned stage as part of the Honors Performance Series at Carnegie Hall.

Associate Principal Cellist of the Baton Rouge Symphony Orchestra Dan Cassin has taught Clay for three years and made the recommendation that started the selection process. Last year, Clay auditioned for the series and was accepted after a review by the Honors Selection Board. Board representatives said acceptance to the “elite group is a direct result of the talent, dedication, and achievements demonstrated in his application and audition recording.” Clay joins 130 other performers from 44 states, including Guam, several provinces in Canada, Australia, China, Malaysia, the Philippines and South Korea.

“We believe that hard work pays off, and these students have honed their craft and now get the opportunity to perform on an international stage,” said Nancy Richardson, program director for the Honors Performance Series. “Their hard work captures the essence of the Honors Performance Series, and we are thrilled to feature these talented young musicians for a life-changing concert in one of the world’s most famous performance venues.”

The performance at Carnegie Hall marks the pinnacle of Clay’s musical achievement. “I am very excited to go to perform at Carnegie Hall with the honors symphony orchestra,” Clay said.

Clay, 16, excels at an instrument not included in the music program at Zachary High, but he is active in his school’s music ensembles. He plays tuba in the marching march and bass guitar in the jazz band. Outside of the ZHS campus, he has joined distinguished local groups. He has participated in Louisiana Youth Orchestras for three years and is the assistant principal cellist.

He served as assistant principal cellist of this year’s All-State Orchestra, first chair of the Multi-District Honor Orchestra, and is an honored member of the Baton Rouge High String and Symphony Orchestras.

He received a Superior Distinction at the inaugural Music Tree String Festival in Zachary and gold and silver medals at the Baton Rouge Grace Notes competition.

Clay performs a wide variety of music, but he said he is committed classical music as his primary career choice. “I aspire to be a professional cellist, I want to play in orchestras, quartets, and solo repertoire,” he said.

The Honors Performance Series, presented by WorldStrides OnStage, at Carnegie Hall was established to showcase some of the most talented student performers in high school today. The Series also holds two annual performances for middle school and high school students at the world-famous Sydney Opera House in Sydney, Australia.

The Honors Performance Series is currently accepting nominations for next year’s Honors Performance Series at the Sydney Opera House and the High School Honors Performance Series at Carnegie Hall in February 2020. For more information, visit

An account has been established to help defray Clay’s Carnegie Hall performance expenses. For information, email