Juilliard this coming September, the path was more clearly defined. "I always knew that music was something I was into," he told me during a recent interview.
After listening to him practice daily for years, his neighbors have come to expect hearing the sound of his instrument. "They have been wonderful." Roy tells me. "It's the greatest thing ever. They actually complain when I don't play. I was sick one time and did not play the horn for a little bit, so one of our neighbors called our house and wanted to know what had happened to me".
No wonder the news that the young Carroll Gardener had been admitted to the prestigious performing arts conservatory generated more than a bit of collective pride amongst his neighbors.
Femenella began playing the piano when he was about 6 years old. Around the same time, he also started composing music. "I did not realize that this is not something everyone did," he says with a smile. His parents, however, knew that this was unusual for such a young child. They took Roy to Juilliard, where they spoke to Joe Drew, the manager of the school's pre- college orchestra at the time. Drew, himself a composer and trumpet player, offered to teach Roy about music theory and composition. "It was such a great introduction to music. It was an experience that I think not many people get to have. I am really grateful for that." Roy continued taking private lessons with Drew for about three years.
Then, while in 5th grade at St. Ann's School in Brooklyn Heights, Roy decided to take up the trumpet, but there was a conflict with his schedule. "They gave me the next closest thing, the French Horn," Roy remembers . "I love the horn so much better. I fell in love with the instrument immediately. It is so rewarding. Playing the horn is really a team sport. Playing in an orchestra with 100 other people on stage... it's just so cool to share that experience." He thinks for a moment: "I wonder what would have happened if I had stayed with the trumpet."
Leaving the piano and composing behind, Roy soon transitioned solely to the French Horn. Along the way, he was admitted to Juilliard's pre-college program. During his seven years there, he studied under Javier Gándara, a French horn player for the Metropolitan Opera. During four summers, he studied with Carolyn Wahl at the Kinhaven Music School in Vermont.
Roy has played in the horn section of Juilliard Pre-College Orchestra, the Brooklyn Symphony Orchestra, the Brooklyn Repertory Opera, where he has performed as Principal Horn, as well as many other New York City area orchestras.
Of course, he attended regular classes at St. Ann's as well.
When he begins at Juilliard in September, Roy will be studying with Julie Landsman, who, after twenty five years, just retired as principal horn player for the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra. "She is among one of the best teachers anywhere, which is pretty exciting for me. She has students all over the country, who are playing in major orchestras. She is also an amazing musician. It's very exciting."
Despite his talent, it is clear that Roy has worked very hard to get where he is. But Roy says: "I enjoy the day to day of practicing. It's not something extra to what I do It's just what I do. You can best describe it as a loving energy. When there is no love in my sound, then something is going wrong. Even if it is not perfect or I miss a few notes, what's more important is that love."
He says that he has always been fortunate to have supportive parents and teachers who allowed him to prioritize.
Before he gets to live at Lincoln Center to attend Juilliard this fall, Roy will be spending eight weeks at the Aspen Music Festival during the summer. His neighbors are bound to miss the sound of his practicing, but hopefully, he will return to the neighborhood throughout his studies to share his music with us.
Wishing you all the best, Roy!