The big stage

WAYNE BRYAN Staff Writer Published April 12, 2012 at 4:14 a.m.
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— Katelyn Yahn will probably always remember her first time in New York City. Who wouldn’t, when a trip to the Big Apple includes an opportunity to sing on the stage of Carnegie Hall?

Yahn is a member of the National Park Community College Singers, who have been invited to take part in the National Two-Year College Choral Festival on May 5.

The second-year student from Reno, Ark., now living in Hot Springs, said she is excited about being in the festival.

“To go to New York for the first time and get to sing in Carnegie Hall,” Yahn said, “it is an honor just to be invited.”

Denise Edds, conductor of the choir and coordinator of the music program at NPCC in Hot Springs, said it is the first long trip for many of the students.

“Many of the students have never f lown on an airplane before,” she said. “Most have been to Little Rock, but these are mostly rural kids, and few have really traveled. Only two members of the choir have been to New York.”

While it is a first time for these singers, it is not the first time Edds has taken a choir from the college to sing in Manhattan. The singers and Edds were invited by the company that produces the choir festival for two-year colleges.

“We got an invitation to bring our jazz group, theNPCC Soundwave, to New York from Dr. Craig Arnold, artistic director of Manhattan Concert Productions in 2003,” Edds said. “That performance in 2004 helped put our program here on the map.”

Ensembles from the college often perform in the community and around the state. NPCC President Sally Carder has given credit to the musical groups for carrying the name of the college to the community.

“She has called us the school’s football team,” Edds said. “At first I didn’t know how to take that, but I see she means we represent the entire school when we go out and perform.”

The music program coordinator is also a trained, professional singer. She said that after the jazz group performed in New York, Arnold hired Edds to sing a solo performance at an earlier festival for junior colleges at Carnegie Hall.

“He has gotten to know me and the music here at NPCC,” Edds said. “So when MCP invited all 45 of the singers to come, I told him we could not raise the kind of money needed for the trip.”

Edds said her choir alreadyknows one of the pieces to be sung in the concert, accompanied by the New York Chamber Orchestra.

“We had just done the ‘Gloria’ by Antonio Vivaldi earlier this year, and we could learn the other piece, Mozart’s ‘Regina Coeli,’” she said. “So he asked me, ‘What would it take to get you here?’ I said, ‘Airfare for the students; about $25,000 would do it.’”

MCP announced a gif t of $24,000 that paid for the round-trip airline tickets for each student participant.

The choral director said that even with the gift from MCP, the cost of taking a student to New York is about$1,100. The students were asked to contribute $400, and fundraising efforts are under way to find the remaining $20,000.

“Most of these students are in college because of scholarships and federal grants,” Edds said.

So far the program has received some 25 grants from corporations and foundations. On April 19, the college will host a benefit dinner and concert by the school’s music program at The Regency, an event center in downtown Hot Springs.

“The event will be for 300 people, and the first invitations will be to those whohave given gifts to the National Parks Community College Foundation to help the students make the trip,” Edds said. “Other tickets will be $75 and will include dinner and performances, including excerpts from the famous musicals West Side Story and Phantom of the Opera.”

There will also be an auction during the evening, Edds said.

“This is the first fundraiser supported by the school ’s foundations,” she said.

Along with performing the concert at Carnegie Hall, the young people will have time to sight-see in the nation’s largest city and take in some of themusical events offered in New York.

Yahn, who plans on remaining at NPCC to attend its nursing program, said she looks forward to attending the Metropolitan Opera while in the city.

Aaron Nonden, a student who lives in Hot Springs Village, is in his second semester at NPCC. He said he plans to see a performance of a musical on Broadway.

Nonden, a tenor, said he is studying music at NPCC in hopes of earning an Associate of Arts degree and going for a vocal-performance degree at a university.

However, the chance tosing at Carnegie Hall is still his main focus.

“It is absolutely amazing the musical experience we will have in the big city,” he said “We will have all the energy and spirit of working with true professionals in one of the finest venues in the entire world It will certainly test our mettle with the other choirs there.”

For more i n for mat ion about the choir and the April 19 benefit performance, contact Lisa Carey, director of development for NPCC, at (501) 760-4129.

Staff writer Wayne Bryan can be reached at (501) 244-4460 or wbryan@arkansasonlinecom.

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