6 Summit High students selected for national honor choir performance at Carnegie Hall | SummitDaily.com

6 Summit High students selected for national honor choir performance at Carnegie Hall

Six Summit High School students have been selected to perform at Carnegie Hall in February. Pictured from left are Zachary Merriman, Isabela Imamura, Soledad Borrego, Mikaela Clark, Ellyn Lew. Not pictured is Thomas Francis.
Deepan Dutta / ddutta@summitdaily.com

FRISCO — Six Summit High School students have been selected to attend the High School Honors Performance Series at Carnegie Hall in New York City, a distinguished honor bestowed on only 400 high school students across the country out of 7,000 applications. 

The honor is remarkable, considering six of the selected students come from a little resort community in the mountains. While some of the students are able to pay for the trip, a few of them are looking for a little help from the community to fund their way to the big stage in New York City.

The six Summit students are Thomas Francis, Isabela Imamura from Dillon, Soledad Borrego from Breckenridge, Mikaela Clark from Summit Cove, Ellyn Lew from Breckenridge and Zachary Merriman from Summit Cove. Imamura and Merriman have been selected for the honor choir before, but this will be the first trip for the four others.

These six students had to submit their own audition tape, competing with thousands of other students across the country. Most sang an Italian aria, “Caro Mia Ben,” for their audition.

“They had to learn an Italian aria, which is a pretty big deal, as most people don’t learn arias until college,” Summit High School Choir Director Caroline Hesford said.

“Vocal resonance is well displayed through an Italian aria,” Clark said. “It involves a lot of technique stuff that choirs look for. They can really see the true extent of your vocal ability before being accepted.”

After having performed their best, professional-sounding audition tapes, the students are thrilled to have been selected for the national honor choir. 

Imamura, a senior who is applying to colleges for music theater on the East Coast, said she has been singing ever since elementary school. Having been selected for the honor choir before, she knows the electric excitement that comes with singing at the hallowed and historic Carnegie Hall.

“It’s honestly such a big honor,” Imamura said. “Singing at Carnegie Hall was truly spectacular. It is so beautiful. The sound travels all around the place — truly an experience we won’t be able to experience again.”

Borrego, a senior who intends to study indigenous studies or music and theater in college, also has been singing since elementary school but took a break and played in the school band before realizing how much she missed choir. She said that hearing she will be singing at Carnegie Hall was a thrill of a lifetime.

“I was really excited when I found out I got in,” Borrego said. “I was so happy that I called my best friend right away. I think Carnegie Hall will be magical, as well as New York.”

Most of the selected students have never been to New York City before, making the trip all the more special.

Clark, a sophomore in the choir for the first time, has been active in the music theater scene in Summit County, having performed in recent local productions of “Little Shop of Horrors,” “Sweeney Todd,” “The Addams Family” and “Beauty and the Beast.” She said she was very enthused about the trip and the possibility of meeting all the other great high school singers across the country.

“I think that it’s so cool that we have six kids from our small county going, since there aren’t a whole lot of people who do musical theater here,” Clark said. “It’s going to be great to meet people who sing like me. And getting to go to New York and getting to perform in such a prestigious hall space is so cool.”

Lew, a junior who has been singing with the choir for three years, said that aside from the honor of performing with the national honor choir, it also helps boost future prospects in music should the students choose to make it a career.

“This can solidify whether I want to do music as a career or not,” Lew said. “We’ll be working with some of the most prestigious directors in the country. No doubt it will it be a real cool experience and will determine for me whether this is what I want to do as a career.”

Merriman, a senior who will be attending college at the University of Colorado to study music recording, is ecstatic about getting to perform at Carnegie Hall again.

“It means a lot,” Merriman said. “I made it last year, and it was a great time. It was really life changing. I saw a lot of things I was able to cross off my bucket list, like a yacht ride around the harbor and seeing the Statue of Liberty. I found a lot of people who were as passionate about music as I am, and that was really cool.”

All of the students agreed that music, generally, has been a lifesaver. For some of them, music has been an escape from tumultuous childhoods and from day-to-day pressures.

“For me, personally, music has always been an outlet to express myself and feel really comfortable in my own skin,” Imamura said. “I deal with a lot of anxiety, so it’s really been a way to get out of that headspace and truly feel like myself.”

“I dealt with a lot of stuff as a kid, and I didn’t really have a way to get out of my brain,” Lew said. “Music is a great way to do that. It also helps me with creativity, like writing music, and helped me find some of my best friends.”

“Music has been life changing for me,” Borrego said. “It’s been like a home. Growing up, my home life was very isolating, but with music I found a place to cry and lean on. Music is just so loving and unites different people. I hope I always do it.”

“Growing up, I had a bit of a rough home life, so I had trouble focusing on any one thing,” Clark said. “Music is something I am truly passionate about now, it has gone through so many aspects of my life. There are also so many academic aspects to music as well as a social element and calming effect that lets me be in tune with myself. I want to do it for the rest of my life, I wouldn’t give it up for anything.”

“Music has brought me out of the darkest corners in life,” Merriman said. “I’ve always had issues with mental health, but music has given me an outlet both for me to create and give to other people, to hopefully support them through their troubled times.”

While all are thrilled about the opportunity, some need a little financial help to get to Carnegie. The trip costs $2,500 for each student, including lodging and airfare. Hesford said the choir will be doing fundraisers and odd jobs for the next month to raise the money. The students hope the community can help make up the shortfall.

“If we were to get that financial support, we would not only be representing the high school but Summit as a whole, and we’ll make it proud,” Lew said. “It is such a tremendous opportunity, especially with how arts are a bit under appreciated in a small community like this. To have six students from the only high school here be accepted is pretty incredible, and it would help further music education and create a path for other students to do big things like this.” 

Hesford said the students have to pay their balances by Dec. 30. The trip is from Jan. 30 to Feb. 3 with the Carnegie Hall performance on the night of Feb. 2. To help contribute to the student’s trip funds, call Hesford at 970-368-1115.

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