The Clovis North High School Chamber Singers and Women’s Chorale recently returned from a whirlwind trip to New York where they performed at Carnegie Hall and St. Paul the Apostle Church. They performed alongside three other choirs from around the globe.
“It was very exciting to perform in Carnegie Hall,” said Heather Bishop, choir director. “The was huge for us.”
The experience was the culmination of a lot of hard work and fundraising. After receiving high scores at the Anaheim Heritage Festival, Bishop submitted a choir audition CD to World Projects Music Festival last May. Both the Chamber Singers and Women’s Chorale were accepted. The festival accepts both high school and college choirs, but only five choirs were accepted into the 15th Annual New York Choral Festival - two of those five from Clovis North. The other three choirs were from Germany, Estonia, and Montclair State University. The festival was held March 14-18.
“The students were so excited to be able to go and worked very hard,” Bishop said. “We had a countdown on the board all year up until we left. The school was so supportive and so were the parents. This was a first for this school and for me to go to Carnegie Hall.”
It was the first time that the Chamber Singers and Women’s Chorale had performed out of state, according to Bishop. Fifty-two students and 20 chaperones went on the trip.
“It was definitely something I will not forget,” said Jordan Pulido, 16, a junior at Clovis North. “It was so great, especially with the group that we went with. We went with people we loved to sing with and that we all love dearly.”
Hailey Strahm, 16, a junior, said the group has become like family.
“I just love that I get to take an hour or two hours out of every day to sing with my best friends,” she said. “Everyone here is like a family. It’s just a magical thing. There’s nothing like it.”
Because Clovis North is seventh through 12th grade, many of the students have been singing under the direction of Bishop for six years.
“This was a great way to end those six years with those students,” Bishop said. “My son is one of those seniors, which made it extra special to be able to share that memory with him.”
It is the memory of singing in Carnegie Hall that seems to have stayed with most students.
“Singing in Carnegie was probably one of the most amazing experiences I’ve ever had,” Pulido said. “When you walk in through those doors onto the stage and you look out onto the audience, your heart stops for a second. You think ‘Wow, I made it to New York and I’m in Carnegie Hall’ and then you start singing and it gets even better.”
The experience was not just exciting for the students, but for Bishop herself.
“It was a dream to be able to perform in Carnegie,” she said. “As a child, I had wanted to perform as a concert pianist in Carnegie Hall.”
Bishop realized her dream while playing the Steinway Grand Piano at Carnegie Hall as she accompanied the Women’s Chorale.
It wasn’t just singing in Carnegie Hall that made a lasting impression on students - St. Paul the Apostle had it’s own special charm.
“Everyone sounded like angels in there,” said Riley Hotchkiss, 17, a senior. “It was a great ending to my senior year.”
Even though the students were excited to perform, they were a little nervous about performing with the other three choirs.
“It was a little intimidating at first,” Strahm said. “These people spoke a different language, they looked older than us ... we were kind of nervous. But we got to meet them all in person, and then we realized we’re all just one big family because we all sing and we all love it.”
While in New York, students were also able to do a little sightseeing and visited the 9/11 Memorial Museum, the Statue of Liberty, and even caught a Broadway show.
“I am so very proud of these kids and how they sang and behaved on the trip,” Bishop said. “I know that the 9/11 Museum was very emotional for everyone, even though these students were very young when this event happened in history. The kids had several highlights, but this one was huge.”
Strahm and her mother went to the memorial together. Although Strahm herself does not remember the events of Sept. 11, 2001, she said her mother was crying and the experience had a big impact on her.
“I was really upset about it, but it boosted my pride for my country,” Strahm said. “I think we all walked out of there with more pride.”