Who landed among the stars at a recent gala at Lincoln Center in New York City? If you guessed it was an aspiring singer, songwriter and musician from Bethlehem Central High School, your guess would be spot on.
That’s because BC senior Maddie Gallagher got the chance in November to perform onstage solo and with her musical idol, Sara Bareilles, at a star-studded event that served as a fundraiser for a cause near and dear to Gallagher. That cause is support for a network of camps that are part of the SeriousFun Children’s Network, a community of specialty camps serving children with life-threatening illnesses and chronic disabilities and their families.
While Gallagher is an alto in the high school’s Choraliers and plays viola as a member of the Philharmonic Orchestra, it was through one of those camps – the Double H Ranch in Lake Luzerne – that producers of the Nov. 14 “Stories and Songs Gala” at Lincoln Center discovered Gallagher’s talent.
The invitation to join Sara Bareilles and others on the big stage came as a surprise to Gallagher – a longtime Double H camper with Spina Bifida – who was more focused on completing college applications at the time the call came in.
“I got the message from the Director of Operations at Double H and she asked me, ‘How would you like to perform with other campers at Lincoln Center alongside Julia Roberts and Sara Bareilles?’” recalled Gallagher, who said she did not know camp staff had shared a video of her performing at a local fundraiser in 2021 with organizers of the gala. “I literally dropped my phone after I read the email.”
Gallagher spent five days in New York, four of them preparing for the big event with the help of veteran Broadway directors and choreographers who worked with all of the event’s performers, including Gallagher.
“We got to work with some of the best, biggest music directors on Broadway,” said Gallagher. “Our music director was Mary-Mitchell Campbell. She is amazing. She has worked with everyone in the industry.”
Gallagher said the daily 10-hour rehearsals were strenuous but the experience was rewarding in so many ways.
“All the camps are free for all campers to attend,” said Gallagher. “Camp is something I look forward to every summer so it’s nice to give back to a place that has given so much to me. The gala raised over $2 million,” said Gallagher. “But also, my idol, Sara Bareilles was there. I have always loved her, and after meeting her and hearing her perform live, I have so much more admiration for her and the songs she writes.”
Several numbers featured the seven campers, including a group number, with campers accompanying Bareilles on her hit song, “Brave.” Gallagher was also chosen to perform a solo. She sang “Pure Imagination” from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.
After her solo, Gallagher ran into Bareilles backstage where the Grammy award winner offered feedback on her performance.
“Sara was coming from her dressing room and we crossed paths so we got some time to talk,” said Gallagher. “She was so complimentary of my solo. She complimented my breath support and my pitches and asked me what I wanted to do after high school. It was so nice to have that interaction with someone who has inspired me for so long.”
So what is it that Gallagher, who sings, plays piano, guitar and viola, wants to do after she graduates next June?
“I want to pursue music: songwriting, recording, and studying the music industry,” said Gallagher, whose first recollection of performing is at the Sunday dinner table for her family where she would impersonate Hannah Montana. “I realized music was my passion when practicing (the piano and guitar) no longer felt like practicing, it became something I look forward to after my school work is done.
“I probably spend hours playing every day but I don’t even realize how much time has gone by,” added Gallagher.
Gallagher says her dream school is the Clive Davis Institute of Recorded Music at New York University, which she visited while she was in New York, but she is keeping an open mind and a busy schedule.
“I just enjoy taking every musical opportunity whether it’s school-based or a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, like performing at Lincoln Center.”