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TuHS Concert Choir sings melody at Carnegie Hall

Choir students at Tualatin High gear up for state and their final concert of the year after performing in New York City last month


SUBMITTED PHOTO - During their trip to New York City, the TuHS Concert Choir performed for adjudication at Queens College in the LeFrak Concert Call. Carnegie Hall isn’t a place where most high schoolers get to perform, but 45 of Tualatin High School’s Concert Choir students found themselves on stage in the world-famous venue last month. Out of 15 schools, TuHS was only one of two able to perform a stand-alone piece for the audience.

The invite to Carnegie Hall came as part of TuHS’s membership with Choirs of America, an organization the school’s choir program helped launch in 2009. Since then, the Concert Choir has been able to work with prestigious artists and perform in grand locations biennially, including at Walt Disney World in 2013, where the group learned from conductor Anton Armstrong.

“I think that it’s wonderful for them to meet other directors and conductors from colleges,” said TuHS Vocal Music Director Kim Kroeger, noting that during their spring break New York City trip, the students were able to work with conductors from the University of Michigan and Queens College, among others.

One of TuHS’s students, junior Austin Brown, was even able to work individually with opera singer Andrew Lunsford. Since Brown is one of three TuHS students heading to solo state competitions, he worked on different techniques that would help him tackle his state songs.

“He helped me with some breathing techniques and things like that,” said Brown. Going to New York City “was a really beneficial experience, as far as a lot of musicianship, but also getting to see some of the prestigious things like Carnegie Hall, and getting to sing at (Queens College). Kind of seeing a higher level of musicianship was really exciting.”SUBMITTED PHOTO - On the sight seeing day of the New York City trip, the TuHS Concert Choir students visited a number of places, including Wall Street.

While learning from some of the best in the business was a memorable part of the trip, some of the students also felt that they learned from simply getting to know the other participating students from around the country.

“I think what I really liked was working with other schools not just from Oregon. Getting to see that we’re all pretty much being taught the same stuff in general, but getting to see what we can take away from their schools,” said senior Paige Spalding. “We’ve gotten to see Tigard and Canby and people in the area ... but we haven’t seen people in California and Iowa and Illinois and Florida.”

By being able to listen and learn from some of the other schools and workshop leaders, Spalding said it reaffirmed that everything they’ve learned is valid and that they’re on the right path.

“I think this is really where you find out that music is a universal language,” said Kroeger. “That’s one of the beautiful things about it.”

And of course, simply being able to perform in Carnegie Hall was an experience in and of itself.

“I’ve been to the Keller (Auditorium) and seen it from the audience point of view, but it’s totally different than being a performer on stage in Carnegie,” Spalding said. “It was amazing just getting to be there and have that experience, saying ‘I sang at Carnegie Hall. I got to do that as a senior in high school.’ It was awesome.”

Aside from performing across the country, TuHS’s Concert Choir — which has 94 students — has also been busy preparing for a potential state bid and its annual end of the year concert. With choir students Brown, Brianna Borror and Gabi Creasey heading to solo state on May 2, the rest of the choir is anxiously waiting to hear back if they’ve made it to team state, set for May 9. Kroeger said that since she’s taught at the school, the choir has made it to state nearly every year, either as an automatic qualifier or like this year after being chosen from the pool of non-qualifiers. She said they’re likely to find out their fate in the next week.

“I think it’s a nice way to kind of cap the year,” Kroeger said of the state competition. “The winning part, I don’t know. I’d rather they just do their best and love music, quite frankly. And usually, if that’s all in place, we do pretty well.”

For senior Tegan Bracha, who’s been in Concert Choir for four years, the incentive to do her best and be a member of the ensemble is part of what’s enabled her to return year after year.

“It kind of gave me an identity,” the 18-year-old said, adding that initially she joined choir because her friends did it and she thought it’d be an easy A. “That’s what everyone thinks it’s gonna be. Then you get in and you realize how much work it’s gonna be, and when you finally get something right and it becomes easy, it’s just a better feeling.”

To cap off their year of achievements, the choir will hold it’s final concert of the year to the theme of broadway tunes. The show will be free at 7:30 p.m. on May 28 and 29 in the TuHS auditorium.

“I always feel like we have so many concerts, but we don’t really,” said Spalding. “I just realized it the other day — we’ve only got one more. Wait, what? Nooo.”

It’s been a big year for TuHS Concert Choir, but based on the hard work of Kroeger and her students, it seems as though there will be many more achievements to come.

“I tell them it’s like throwing out a 1,000 piece jigsaw puzzle and just putting the pieces together,” Kroeger said. “We sing complicated literature, and it’s so fun to take it from the bare bones and make art.”

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