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Four CHCCS Students Perform at All-State Honors Chorus

On November 9 and 10, the Stevens Center in Winston-Salem became a hub of spectacular music during the annual gathering of the North Carolina Chapter of Music Educators Association (NCMEA). Both the NC Honors Chorus and Honors Orchestra bring talented high school musicians to the event each year from across the state. Four CHCCS students were selected to attend the Honors Chorus weekend, with a full day of rehearsals on Saturday and a concert on Sunday afternoon. East Chapel Hill High School (ECHHS) sent three choral students, Hayden Young, Joseph Davis and Julia Rinehart. Caroline Steinert represented Carrboro High School (CHS).

Davis said, “Honors Chorus was unlike any ensemble I have ever been a part of. The pure skill and talent of all of these students allows us to connect and make something absolutely beautiful. Rehearsals were difficult, but I made great friends and had a really fun time.” 

Auditions for NC Honors Chorus always take place in three locations for East, Central and West. This year, CHCCS students auditioned on September 27 at UNC- Greensboro, and they learned the results several days later. The audition assignment, Dance from “Invocation and Dance” by David Conte, is a complex choral piece based on Walt Whitman’s “When Lilacs Last at the Dooryard Bloom’d.”

Desiree Davis-Omburo, choral director from ECHHS, said, “Over 1,000 students in grades 9-12 audition for this honor from across North Carolina. It takes three days to cover everyone who auditions. An audition rubric is used and the same judges are used to make the process as objective as possible. Approximately 180 students are selected. The entire experience is inspiring, transformative and special, in the extreme, and the students do return and ‘spread the word,’ so to speak, encouraging their peers to audition the next year.”

Every year, a nationally-acclaimed guest conductor spends the weekend with the chorus students, preparing them for the performance on Sunday. This year’s conductor was Dr. Daniel Bara from the Hodgson School of Music at the University of Georgia, where he oversees seven university choral ensembles as well as the graduate choral conducting program.  

The Sunday performance was free and open to the public, but as the NCMEA website cautions, “You will need to arrive early to find a good seat. There will likely be a line at the door.” For the lucky parents, friends and other members of the public, a real treat was in store.

Arts Education Coordinator for CHCCS, Dr. Brenda Whiteman, said, “We are so proud to have these four talented students representing the district. It is a great honor to be chosen, and it reflects many long hours of dedication and practice.  Special thanks to Ms. Puhala at Carrboro High, and Ms. Davis-Omburo at East for their role in preparing the students for the auditions, and for accompanying them to the event.”

Davis-Omburo said, “I wish I could take credit for those talented students, but honestly, they deserve all the credit. When you have talented students who also work hard (the work ethic piece is crucial, because it is so competitive!), it is almost a piece of cake to get kids in. This year, my three students just happen to all be seniors who plan to major in music next year in college, so that helped!”

“In terms of preparation, I do help them prepare by working with them and rehearsing with them every week,” Davis-Omburo said. “We also take a trip to UNC-Greensboro the Saturday before school starts, when they offer a free preparation workshop. It is fun and great ‘bonding’ time with the kids, even if it is brutal for all of us to spend our last weekend of the summer doing ‘school stuff.’” 

“Honors Chorus is honestly such a magical event, I am motivated to work very hard to sell it to the kids and motivate them to hard for it, so that more kids can have the experience,” said Davis-Omburo.

Steinert, from CHS, said, “NC Honors Chorus was honestly the most amazing experience, musically, I have ever been a part of. It was empowering to be surrounded by other people who share your loves and talents. You could easily tell that every person in that room deserved to be there and to be one of the top three, was just out-of-this-world. My dad is already an emotional person, but to see him cry because he was beyond proud of me is something I will always carry in my heart.”

The NCMEA websites states the goals for Honors Chorus as, “To honor outstanding singers from high school choral music programs in our state by giving them the opportunity to perform at the highest level of achievement, and to provide an outstanding educational experience for both the students and teacher of choral programs across the state.”

Congratulations also to students who made the NC Honors Orchestra and performed at the Stevens Center the same weekend: Kelly Wang and Annette Seo - Violin I, Jenna Kang - violin II and Raeva Johnson - Cello from ECHHS. Tim Rinehart and Carleton Zhao from CHHS also performed.