Kâté Braydon photo/Telegraph-Journal

Saint John High choir heading to NYC

by Karissa Donkin - Monday, December 30, 2013

This article is courtesy of Telegraph Journal

Saint John High School's award-winning choir is heading to the Big Apple this spring.

Music teacher and choir director Trish Gallagher said the choir will travel to New York City and attend workshops with professors at Juilliard, a prestigious private conservatory.

The students will also tour around the city, taking in the sights and sounds and performing at a few schools.

"They're pretty excited. Many of them have never travelled anywhere," Gallagher said.

"They're going to hear other choirs from other places. It's nice for them to see and be inspired by them and feel good about what they can do in comparison."

Gallagher's choir is made up of 75 students - 46 girls and 29 boys. The students, who Gallagher says are a "special group," come from a wide range of socioeconomic and cultural backgrounds.

Many of them have one thing in common - they've never had any formal instruction.

"Almost everyone is new to singing and new to the choir, especially this year," Gallagher said.

"I've got football guys on there that have never sang before."

Those kids, Gallagher said, will really benefit from the workshops in New York City.

"The workshops are invaluable. They learn a lot," the teacher said.

"I can bring them so far but it's nice to have someone else tell them the same stuff in a different way or shed light on different approaches to singing."

Before they sing in front of the pros at Juilliard, the students will log about two hours per week of practice, on top of already busy schedules crammed with classes, homework and other activities.

Some will even organize extra rehearsals on their own time. Gallagher said each section of the choir has a leader, and that leader will organize sectional rehearsals. They make sure the other students have the right binders and clothes ready for performances.

Those leaders will also take on some fundraising duties, as Gallagher estimates the choir needs to raise $20,000 for the trip.

That may seem like a daunting number, but Gallagher said the choir has "tremendous support" from its alumni, parents and other members of the community.

That's why the choir has been able to go on adventures before. Gallagher's students have performed at the Lincoln Centre in New York City, in the rotunda of Parliament Hill, travelled to Boston to take workshops at Harvard and to performances all over the Maritimes. They've represented the province at national competitions too.

Every year, students graduate and Gallagher must rebuild her choir from scratch again. That's why trips like these are so important, especially for students in Grade 9 or 10.

"They're going to stay in the choir and bring that experience to the future students."

The choir has several fundraisers planned between now and April 10, when they leave for New York. They've already raised cash from performing at dinner parties at Shadow Lawn Inn and selling art a parent painted and donated.

In the new year, they plan to hold a silent auction, sell smoothies to students at lunch and maybe host a dinner theatre.

They also may reschedule a concert they cancelled at the last minute when they lost one of their own.

Gallagher's students were at a church, ready to perform on Monday when they heard Gavin Adams, a 17-year-old student who had been a part of the choir for two years, was found dead.

They didn't feel right performing without their friend and called off the show.

"It was quite devastating," Gallagher said.

"We just don't feel right about doing that now. We're just going to leave that concert and we'll have another one."

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