The NCHS Mixed Choir, with soloist Amy Harriss, RIGHT, performed at the Illinois Music Educators Convention in Peoria on Saturday, January 26. Photo Courtesy of Carol Haley
NCHS Choir Performs At IMEC
By Steve Browne
NCHS Music Department
On January 26, 2018 the Nashville Community High School Mixed Choir performed, in my opinion, one of the top two concerts in the last eleven years.
Preparation for this concert has been ongoing for the last four years. In 2014 the NCHS Concert Band was selected to perform at the Illinois Music Educators Convention (IMEC). This is an audition-only opportunity.
After deciding to audition in January 2013, a recording was sent. The recording included two pieces, Mekong and Black Horse Troop.
After their deliberation they notified us that we would be able to perform at a featured concert. Following that performance the next January, the concert band was asked to audition for an opportunity to perform in Carnegie Hall in New York City.
An audition was sent and accepted within a week of the invitation.
Since I am both the band and choir director, I wanted the choir to have the same experience as the concert band.
After being accepted to play at Carnegie Hall, I decided that the choir should audition for IMEC.
I had all the confidence in the world that the choir was ready to play at the same level as the concert band. We prepared and recorded an audition that we were very proud of. We got two letters of recommendation from two college/university choir directors and sent it in with confidence.
Our audition was not accepted.
I told the choir that many groups are not accepted. It is very hard to get in but we would audition every year until we were chosen.
The next year we recorded another audition. To our surprise it was also rejected. Our choir was scoring perfect scores at competitions and receiving praise from other local directors, but for some reason, it seemed like we were not going to be chosen for IMEC.
There was never any reason given why we were not chosen – just an email stating that the committee appreciated the audition but due to the abundance of outstanding auditions we were not selected.
We remained focused and determined to have an audition accepted. In March of 2017 an audition was recorded and submitted for review. This was also a quality audition and we were hopeful that this would be our year to be accepted.
After a couple of months of waiting the email finally came. The NCHS Mixed Choir was selected to sing at IMEC. Preparations started immediately.
During this time we were also working to put on a high quality musical (Shrek), along with performing our regularly scheduled concerts.
The time finally came for the choir to perform in Peoria. The crowd consisted of our students’ parents and music educators from all over Illinois and beyond.
Before the concert I told the choir a story. This is something I do before each concert to help ease performance anxiety and tension.
When I was in high school I had a teacher named Keith Hagene. He was the type of teacher that made me want to come to school. He taught shop classes and seemed to love to help kids become better at problem solving and working as a team. The class was called manufacturing.
I had developed a pretty good relationship with Mr. Hagene in a previous class and learned a lot about how to complete projects. To my surprise Mr. Hagene asked me to be the project manager for the class.
He asked me to think about the responsibility it would take to succeed at the job and tell him the next day if I accepted the job.
The next day I came to school excited to tell him that I wanted to be the project manager. After telling him that I accepted the position, I asked him what we were going to build.
He looked at me and said four words that I have never forgotten, “Anything we can imagine.”
I couldn’t believe that he had complete faith in his students. I was shocked that he considered himself part of the team, and completely humbled that he saw something inside me to ask me to be the project manager.
After telling the choir kids that story I told them to never back down from a dream, never feel too small to complete a task, and always imagine how great they can be.
As stated before, the performance at IMEC was something that we will never forget.
I don’t think it could have gone any better than it did.
After performing for 35 minutes, the crowd came to their feet without hesitation.
People whom we have never met came up to me and the students to congratulate us and ask us what our secret to success was.
As a matter of fact, the performance went so well that afterwards we were invited to sing at several different events.
The most prestigious offer was to perform in Paris, France at the 75th anniversary of D – Day, scheduled for July 2019.