Tonawanda News

May 1, 2014

NT choir students touring NYC

By Mia Summerson mia.summerson@tonawanda-news.com
The Tonawanda News

Tonawanda News — Students in North Tonawanda’s Bella Voce and Jacks and Jills choirs left for New York City this morning to spend a weekend touring one of the best cities in the world for music and the performing arts.

In an effort to not only share the talents of the school’s singers, but to also expose them to the real life performance industry, Dean Vallas, the school’s director of choruses, said the students have worked really hard and are prepared to show the Big Apple what North Tonawanda is made of. 

“I think there’s so much more to learn outside of the classroom,” Vallas said. “For these kids to be able to travel to a major metropolitan area and learn about music and big cities and the social aspects of that, is important.”

The two choirs going on the NYC trip are both considered to be advanced groups, only sophomores, juniors and seniors may audition. Bella Voce is an all girls choir and Jacks and Jills is a composed of both. The two groups will perform a selection of songs both separately and combined. The songs range in genre from sacred music to spiritual music to music in foreign languages.  

The students departed the school shortly after 6 a.m. this morning. The action-packed schedule starts with a pit stop in Hoboken, N.J., home of Carlo’s Bakery, the subject of hit TLC reality show, “Cake Boss,” which several students mentioned being fans of.

They’ll finish off the evening with a New York Harbor dinner cruise aboard the Spirit of New York. Friday morning will take the group to St. John the Divine Cathedral to give a performance and tour one of the world’s largest churches.

Their second and final performance in the city will take them back to the harbor to perform at the iconic Statue of Liberty. Then they will board the bus heading back to North Tonawanda High School at 2 p.m.

While the kids will have plenty of time to check things off their NYC bucket list, like sightseeing, shopping on Fifth Avenue, checking out Central Park and hitting NBC’s “Today Show,” there are also many practical and educational experiences to be had.  

On Saturday they will participate in a theater workshop on Broadway with members of the cast of “Phantom of the Opera.” According to Vallas the workshop will include time in a real Broadway rehearsal space, time with theater coaches and a question-and-answer session. Then they will get to see their instructors in action when “Phantom” takes the stage at Broadway’s Majestic Theatre that evening. 

“A lot of the kids are crossovers, doing both the musical and chorus,” Vallas said. “Part of what they are going to take away from this is that experience of being able to go through this with people who are really in the business. Just that taste of what it’s really like is the best thing for them.”

Several of the students, including seniors Emma Balen and Sarah Wilczynski and junior Will Alvarado, agree. They say gaining experience is what they are looking forward to the most. The girls both noted that the chance to study under real Broadway performers is not one they’re likely to come across again. 

“It’s going to be fun go to the Broadway workshop,” Alvarado said, agreeing with his classmates. “And it’s going to be super cool to work with someone who has already made it in the industry.” 

A tour of Radio City Music Hall is also on the agenda, complete with a chance to meet a Rockette and ask her about her career, which is also seen as a chance for students to gather some insight about life as a performer after graduation. Sydney Forster, a substitute teacher who has been working with the choir says they are really excited to get on the road. 

“Having the ability to be able to go on a trip like this is great,” Forster said. “Many may be thinking about going to college there, they’ll be able to ask themselves, ‘could I walk around (New York City) every single day?’ It would give them exposure to city life.”

The trip is entirely funded by the students, who have raised funds over the past two years to make the trip possible. The time and money are expected to be well worth it, and everyone is excited. 

“It’s a great opportunity to go there with people of the same interests and experience what New York has to offer, musically and everything else,” Balen said. “You don’t get that anywhere else.”

Contact reporter Mia Summerson at 693-1000, ext. 4313.