Two Thomas County Central High School chorus students recently sang in a venue unlike any other. Jared Giddens and Britney White attended the prestigious 2020 High School Honors Performance Series at Carnegie Hall in New York City.
“Britney and Jared are amazing singers and musicians that are heavily involved in our choral program,” TCCHS Chorus director Taurence Phillips said. “I'm super proud of their efforts and can't wait to see what they will do musically in the future!”
The Honors Performance Series has workshops in locations including The Musikverein in Austria, The Royal Festival Hall in London, and the Sydney Opera House in Australia. There are various levels depending on age and academic grade. The New York City Honors Performance Series features talented musicians from around the world who come together for a unique opportunity to perform music at Carnegie Hall.
“Some of the greatest performers on Earth have stood where I stood,” Giddens said. “It was just such an honor. The history behind a place like that is just incredible.”
Music professionals such as professors, teachers, directors and private instructors may nominate their most promising youth talents. A board of music professionals reviews nominees and selects participants. Applications must include a completed form, performer biography and audition recording.
White said she was nominated to apply based on her accomplishments with the Georgia Music Educators Association. She auditioned and earned a spot in the Honors Treble Choir.
“I really wanted to be chosen for this series after a couple of my friends went last year, and I was so excited when I received the letter to apply,” White said.
Giddens heard about the opportunity from fellow TCCHS Chorus member Kaleb Ward, who attended last year’s series and nominated him. Giddens sent in his audition to the choir’s website.
“I just really like to sing,” he said. “It was a good opportunity to go somewhere new, and it also looks good on a college résumé. It was a once in a lifetime honor. I was overjoyed to be selected for Honors Concert Choir.”
The schedule was standard for a performance event, participants said. Rehearsals occurred mornings and afternoons.
“There are several mandatory rehearsals where you work under the instruction of a guest conductor,” Giddens said. “These conductors tend to be big names in the choral world.”
Phillips said this aspect of the program is particularly impressive.
“The students had to endure rigorous rehearsals in which they produced an amazing tenacity for creating music with peers from all over the world, which gave them the tools necessary to enhance their local choir,” he said.
Both Giddens and White say the experience taught them both valuable tools and insight.
“Events like this teach me some new stuff about my technique as a singer, and you tend to get a look at some new ways of doing things because every conductor has their quirks and ways of running a choir,” Giddens said.
White learned the most from her director, Dr. Tim Seelig.
“He is the conductor of the gay men’s choir in San Francisco,” she said. “He holds the Guinness World Record for the longest choir concert consecutively conducted, and he was chosen as a community hero to carry the Olympic torch. He taught me lots of new techniques I will never forget.”
Evenings included planned group activities like attending a Broadway show of their choice. During free time, participants got to experience the city and some of the Big Apple’s most famous landmarks such as the Statue of Liberty, Rockefeller Center, Times Square and St. Patrick’s Cathedral.
“The cathedral was especially gorgeous,” Giddens said. “On a separate occasion, we went on a party cruise and got to see the Statue of Liberty and the Brooklyn Bridge. My favorite part of the city was probably the Statue of Liberty and Times Square because of the history behind both places.”
White enjoyed exploring the city.
“I went to Times Square and shopped in the huge Sephora, the Disney Store and the M&Ms store,” she said.
The series culminated in performances by each group that Sunday.
“My favorite part of the overall trip was performing our music because I loved all the pieces, and I felt a real connection to all the other girls in the choir,” White said. “I made friends from all over the country, and I made a couple of friends from outside of the country: one from Mexico and one from England.”
But the entire experience, including performing at such a renowned location, is one neither youth will forget.
“I loved every second of it,” Giddens said. “I loved every bit of my choir, conductor and performance. The whole thing was an eye-opener. It was neat to see how big the world really is.”
White recalls how she connected with the atmosphere.
“There is an atmosphere inside of Carnegie Hall that is unlike any other performance venue I have been in,” she said. “I feel most connected to myself when I am on stage, so it was amazing to have that experience there.”