It's no small matter to be invited to Carnegie Hall in New York City to sing under the direction of the world-renowned composer and conductor, John Rutter, which is why members of Summit Choral Society have already begun working on Brahms' Requiem for the May performance.
The group was invited to perform alongside other ensembles with their conductor, Jill Schroeder-Dorn, by MidAmerica Productions, a 30-year-old organization that brings together conductors, choruses, orchestral ensembles and soloists for performances at venues like New York's Isaac Stern Auditorium at Carnegie Hall and Avery Fisher Hall in Lincoln Center.
Schroeder-Dorn, who has directed the choir for a year and a half, recently defended her dissertation on "The Development of Mennonite Music in the Congo: A Study of Musical Thought" at the University of Northern Colorado, from which she will graduate with a Doctor of Arts degree in December. She comes up to Christ Lutheran Church on Monday nights for rehearsal.
"Jill is so enthusiastic and so wonderful that she brings out the best in everybody," said Joni Thieme-Weinberg, member of the Summit Choral Society board of directors. "She's wonderful at picking out what we need work on and figuring out what techniques to use to get us where she wants us to be. I've sung off and on for 12-14 years, and she is by far the best director we've every had."
On the secret to her success, however, Schroeder-Dorn remained silent. "I think I'm still in the early chapters of my career, and I hope to always strive to improve in the craft of conducting," she said. "I was halfway through my master's degree before I felt comfortable in front of a choir."
"We have singers with various levels of experience," Schroeder-Dorn said. "I enjoy our status as non-auditioned; it gives us the opportunity to have experienced leaders help train less experienced singers. Choral singing is a great opportunity for many people to actively participate in music, rather than just listen to it."
While 20 people are currently signed up for the May trip to New York, where they will spend five days and four nights enjoying various activities in addition to the Carnegie Hall performance, there is still room for a few more "serious musicians," said Thieme-Weinberg, who hopes a total of 26 people will be able to attend.
"The choir received this invitation ... because of the quality of musicianship demonstrated by the performers - a clear reflection of their exceptional director, Jill Schroeder-Dorn," Mid-America conductor-in-residence Dennis J. Loy stated in a press release. Invitations to participate are extended after a recommendation by music colleagues; the Summit Choral Society was last invited 14 years ago.