Almost a year after learning she was ranked the number 1 soprano singer in the Rhode Island Music Education Association (RIMEA) All-State Jr. Mixed Chorus, Katherine Connors is headed to Nashville, Tenn. to sing her heart out with the 2013 National Association for Music Education (NAfME) All-National Honor Choir.
Connors, a sophomore at Warwick Veterans Memorial High School, is one of more than 670 high school musicians that will travel to Nashville on Oct. 26 for a four-day, three-night trip, concluding with a performance at a gala concert in the Presidential Ballroom of the Gaylord Opryland Hotel. The Choir consists of 300 talented singers from across the country; the concert will also feature an All-National Honor Concert Band, Symphony Orchestra and Jazz Ensemble. All of the All-National Honor Ensembles consist of high school musicians who qualified for state-level honor ensembles.
This is only the fourth year this national choir has been featured; previously NAfME sponsored only regional ensembles.
This exciting journey began last November when Connors auditioned for the All-State Jr. Mixed Chorus, which consists of the best singers from the seventh, eighth and ninth graders in the state.
While 15-year-old Connors had the honor of being the number one-ranked soprano singer out of the students that auditioned in her age group, Nancy Kennedy, the director of choirs at Vets, pointed out that a number of her students were ranked in the top portion of their singing groups in both the Jr. and Sr. Mixed Choruses (the Sr. division consists of 10th, 11th and 12th graders).
“I had several top scoring students in All-State last year,” said Kennedy, beaming with pride.
Following the success with the All-State Chorus, Kennedy encouraged Connors and other students to audition for the All-National Honor Choir toward the end of the 2012-2013 school year. They sent in audition videos, and waited for the results.
“I got an e-mail in August saying that I got in, and I was really excited,” said Connors, adding that there may have been some jumping and screaming involved.
While Connors is the only student from Vets, and from Warwick schools in general, to be selected for this year’s Choir, she is not the first Hurricane to do so. Kennedy explained that in 2011, her student Michael Ryder was in the Choir and the two traveled to Washington, D.C. for the performance.
“We hope to continue this in the future,” said Kennedy, adding that there are a number of incredibly talented students in the Vets Choir programs.
But for the moment, Kennedy is helping to prepare Connors for her performance in Nashville. Kennedy will travel with Connors to Tennessee serving as a chaperone.
Connors explained that her four-day trip begins with three days of rehearsal with the Choir, under the direction of Rollo Dilworth, a well known composer, arranger and conductor. “He is a really big name in the Chorale world,” said Kennedy.
Connors can expect to rehearse for almost eight hours each day before the performance on the morning of Wednesday, Oct. 30.
The performance is part of NAfME’s annual conference, so the audience will consist of music educators from around the country, and Kennedy predicts some “Nashville somebodies” to be in the crowd.
In an effort to prepare for the performance, Connors has begun working on the seven songs she will have to perform, four of which are not even in English. Connors and the rest of the Choir are singing two Latin songs, one Greek song and even a song in Indian. Connors is listening to sound files of the songs to learn the pronunciation.
“It’s all just so exciting,” said Connors. “I’m really excited to work with the director.”
She is also excited to have the opportunity to visit Nashville, one of the most musical cities in the country.
“That’s one of the things about having it in Nashville,” said Kennedy, who pointed out the previous three concerts were in Washington, D.C. in conjunction with National Education Week in June. While Kennedy said it was great getting to see the sites in the nation’s capital, having the opportunity for some music exposure is a little more fitting.
In between their hours of rehearsal, Connors and her fellow singers will get to attend a concert at the Grand Ole Opry, a songwriter’s presentation and a performance of the Walt Disney musical, “Tarzan.”
Connors is also excited to meet more students who share her passion for chorus.
“I’m excited to meet all of the kids because they are just as interested in music as I am,” said Connors.
Although she has been singing in school choirs since elementary school, Connors says she does not come from a musical family and only started taking music very seriously in eighth grade. She took private vocal lessons in eighth grade but is between teachers right now.
Kennedy predicts that there were singers somewhere in Connors’ family to give her such talent.
“Some people are gifted with a beautiful instrument even if they don’t know how to use it,” said Kennedy. “Katherine is gifted with a beautiful instrument, and thankfully she is learning how to use it.”
Kennedy also pointed out that Connors is very driven when it comes to her singing and is never content. Even being the number 1 soprano in the All-State Junior Choir, Connors knows there is more she can strive for.
Following her trip to Nashville, Connors will continue to pursue top honors for high school singers, and will audition for the RIMEA All-State Sr. Mixed Chorus this November.
“I know it’s going to be a lot more challenging because there are singers with even more experience,” said Connors, referencing the fact that she is now on the younger side of this chorus as a sophomore.
“I definitely want to continue to study music through college and I want to make it part of my life,” said Connors. “But I don’t know how big of a part.”
For now, Connors is enjoying being a part of the Vets Chorus family; she is in Concert Chorus, Chorale and Jazz Chorus.
“I like them a lot,” said Connors. “I like the gospel stuff we do [in Chorus]. It takes a lot of energy.”
The week after her performance in Nashville, Connors will take the stage in the Vets Auditorium for the annual Harvest Concert on Nov. 6 at 7 p.m., performing with all three Vets singing groups.