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|Sing, sing, sing: WMHS students head to Carnegie Hall|
Anxiousness and excitement have filled the West Monroe High School Rebel Choir room over the past few weeks as members of the choir prepare for a performance at Carnegie Hall in New York.
Forty-nine students will leave Friday with 18 chaperones to spend the weekend in New York rehearsing, shopping and touring the city before the choir's performance Monday at Carnegie Hall. The performance is scheduled for 8 p.m.
The choir will be directed by renowned composer John Milford Rutter. They will perform Rutter's "Gloria" and "Winchester Te Deum."
This weekend's trip will be the Rebel choir's third time to perform at Carnegie Hall, but for many of the current choir members, the performance will be their first at the famed venue.
Over the past few years, the Rebel Choir has traveled and performed around the world, including events in Austria in 2006 and at Carnegie Hall in 2003. The choir also sang for Pope John Paul II in Italy in 2001.
Several of the choir members, who want to compose and direct music themselves, say they are honored to have the opportunity to be directed by someone like Rutter.
Seniors Dex Poindexter, 19, Jessica Whitlock, 18, and Wesley Winnon, 17, say their dream is to one day be the ones holding the conductor's baton.
"He (Rutter) is ranked as the No. 1 choral composer in the world right now, and this is just a great honor," Poindexter said. "Choir is what I do, and when you get to study from a choral composer like John Rutter, that's just a once in a lifetime experience."
Whitlock said, "It's an honor to get to go and work under him. Choir is what I do, and I want to direct, too, so this is kind of a stepping stone for me."
"It's exciting and just one more experience I get to experience with the choir. I went to Austria with the choir and that was a first for me … first plane ride and everything. And, now we get to go to New York and perform under this great conductor, so I'm very anxious," Winnon said.
Once in New York, the students will rehearse for about three to four hours each day, but they also will tour the city with their chaperones. Most of them are anxious about shopping and seeing famous sites.
Poindexter visited New York in 2003, but at that time security was still tight in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. He wasn't able to do everything he desired during that trip.
Winnon and Poindexter are looking forward to visiting the various stores New York City has to offer.
"They have one of my favorite stores there, H & M (clothing store)," Winnon said.
Whitlock wants to visit Strawberry Fields, the John Lennon Memorial in Central Park.
West Monroe choir director Greg Oden is excited that his students have the opportunity before them, and he says the community's support has helped make the trip a reality.
"This has been quite an undertaking for these kids," Oden said. "They've raised money by selling candy, cookies, greenery, you name it. And, everyone in the community has helped out a great deal. Each kid had to come up with a lot (of money) to go."
"It's an honor to represent our community and Ouachita Parish Schools and we're very excited and thankful just to have this opportunity," he added.
Assistant choir director Vickie Freeman said she's excited for all the students, too, but she's particularly excited for the ones who have never had the opportunity to travel.
"They have fundraised their hearts out, and there's been a lot of people who have done a lot of things for them, and we just want to thank the community for their support," Freeman said. "This is not a cheap trip. It's very expensive and they've had to work really hard. But it's worth it … we have a girl going who has never flown and she's hardly ever been out of the state of Louisiana. She's just on cloud nine, and she's getting to go because teachers at this school and people in the community have helped her."
Freeman knows that some of the students may be nervous because Rutter has a reputation of being strict, even around children.
"He's been described as kind of like Simon (of American Idol) only older, so he'll probably be more cranky," Freeman said. "In choir here, we try to have a good time, but we're serious when we're serious. He'll be very serious, so I think there's some anxiety because they don't want to let him down."
"But, I've been with the Rebel Choir for eight years and they've never not been prepared," Freeman continued. "They take a lot of pride in what they do."