Durango High School Choir members performed at Carnegie Hall earlier this month after two years of COVID-19 cancellations stood in the way of singing in New York City.
The 43 DHS Choir students joined 77 other high school students to perform the same music as the combined National Youth Choir.
Students were given the opportunity to work under Grammy Award-winning conductor Jeffery Redding for the performance.
“He was very inspirational with the kids,” said DHS Choir Director Petra Lyon. “He took a lot of time to tell them stories about his life.”
DHS Choir historian Ava Allen said the team learned a sense of responsibility and how to be better singers.
Redding picked all of the music that students practiced for their New York performance on March 6. One song called “Modimo” was such a favorite with the choir students that Lyon said they performed it at their recruitment showcase in Durango for elementary and middle school students.
Allen said the students were nervous at first, but found confidence in their fellow peers and the accomplished conductor they were working with.
The Festival at Carnegie Hall is an annual event hosted by WorldStrides that brings together high school choirs from all over the country to midtown Manhattan, where students spend a few days practicing together and performing on the Ronald O. Perelman Stage.
“We had a really great time, and the kids had some wonderful experiences besides just practicing with an incredible director,” Lyon said.
Choir students got to tour New York City, visiting the Statue of Liberty, the National September 11 Memorial Museum, and shopped around Times Square. Students even got a chance to see a Broadway show, Lyon said.
The choir tried to take the trip in 2020, but was stopped by the pandemic.
“I think it was two or three weeks before we were supposed to go when everything started shutting down,” Lyon said.
She decided to leave a deposit with the company that runs the choir program at Carnegie Hall so that when the pandemic eased, students could go on the trip.
Reapplying for the trip this year was a bit different from when the choir initially tried to go in 2020, as the number of students in choir had doubled in the past two years.
“We had to raise $130,000 for this trip,” Lyon said. “When we were supposed to go two years ago, we only had 20 kids signed up for the trip, and this year we had 43 kids.”
She said residents who made donations stepped up to help students afford the trip.
“We’re especially grateful to the Durango Education Foundation, they were by far our greatest funder,” she said. “I’m beyond grateful for all of our community support.”
The DHS Choir is a year-round program. It plans to finish out the school year strong with a public performance. It also plans to compete at the Greeley Jazz Festival in April. In the 2022-23 school year, the choir plans to perform in Chicago.