Chautauqua Lake Central School musicians perform in New York City

Submitted Photo Singers from Chautauqua Lake Central School relax in the subway in New York City, where they recently performed at Lincoln Center in works conducted by composer Eric Whitacre. They are, from left to right: Reagan Ellis, Raegan Ward, Adam Peterson, Brady Harper, Cheyenne Meeder, Brandon Harper, Hannah Roush, Kamryn Wilson, Megan Brown, Mollie Meadows, Hunter Dearing, and teacher Jennifer Davis.

A group of Chautauqua Lake Central School musicians performed this spring at David Geffen Hall (formerly Avery Fisher Hall) at Lincoln Center, the home of the New York Philharmonic. The 11 local singers joined 240 students from other choirs across the nation to perform music composed and conducted by Grammy Award winner Eric Whitacre. The opportunity was arranged through Distinguished Concerts International New York (DCINY).

“DCINY trips are for the music student looking to go beyond what we provide in our regular music program,” explained teacher Jennifer Davis. The students who chose to participate prepared for months, rehearsing nine pieces with Davis at least two hours each week. A website with recorded rehearsal and performance tracks allowed singers to practice on their own time, too.

“There is a high level of expectation for these students,” continued Davis. “This year, in addition to rehearsing and preparing music, they were asked to submit video recordings performing each selection from memory.”

In addition to the experience of rehearsing and singing with other well-prepared musicians, the Chautauqua Lake students attended the Tony Award-winning musical, “Dear Evan Hansen,” and the Broadway play, “The Play That Goes Wrong,” winner of London’s Olivier Award for Best New Comedy. They enjoyed dinner in Chinatown, followed by a visit to the National September 11 Memorial. Beautiful spring weather enhanced a stop at Times Square, shopping at Columbus Circle, and a morning walk/run in Central Park.

For student Kamryn Wilson, “The experience was great! The highlight of the trip for me was performing in Lincoln Center with Eric Whitacre,” but she was also enthused about seeing “Dear Evan Hansen.” “Every second and cent spent was worth this trip!” confirmed Kamryn.

“Being on this trip definitely helped me make different connections with music that I’d never think of,” explained Hunter Dearing. “Now whenever I read music, I try to find this underlying meaning that I never would have thought of before. It was definitely worth all of the time, work, preparation, and money that went into it.”

It was Hunter’s second trip to New York City with the chorus, and he termed it “definitely the highlight of my year,” adding, “I would go again in a heartbeat. If anyone is ever given this opportunity, I would highly recommend taking it.”

“My favorite aspect of the trip,” commented Davis, “is that students get to experience New York City, see a Broadway show – or two! – yet our primary purpose is to rehearse and perform for a concert, and this year it was with Eric Whitacre.”

Davis explained, “When I started teaching at Chautauqua Lake in 2005, I attended a reading session at the NYS School Music Association’s summer conference, and that was where I was first introduced to the music of Eric Whitacre. His music rekindled my love of choral music, and he knows how to connect with students and teachers with his use of social media. If ever there was a rock star of choral music, he’s it!”

Music teacher Davis reports that this is the fourth such trip for selected music students from Chautauqua Lake. The first, in 2013, featured music composed and conducted by Grammy winner Rene Clausen. On two other trips, students sang at Carnegie Hall. “DCINY consistently provides opportunities to perform with world renowned artists in highly respected performance halls,” she affirmed.

Davis and her students are particularly grateful to the Board of Education, who authorized the trip even though it required them to miss some school days. Davis and parent Chris Peterson accompanied the students to New York.

Whitacre’s concert music has been performed throughout the world by millions of both amateur and professional musicians, while his ground-breaking “virtual choirs” have united singers from over 110 different countries in web-based performances. A graduate of the prestigious Juilliard School of Music, Whitacre was recently appointed Artist in Residence with the Los Angeles Master Chorale, having completed five years as Composer in Residence at Cambridge University.

DCINY was founded by Iris Derke, general director, and Jonathan Griffith, artistic director and principal conductor. The creative producing entity is a talent incubator, a star-maker, and a presenter of broadly accessible, world-class musical entertainment.