Heathwood Choirs Take New York’s Carnegie Hall

The Heathwood Hall Episcopal School A Cappella Choirs recently returned from an incredible once-in-a-lifetime performance opportunity at New York’s world famous Carnegie Hall, the first trip of its kind for Heathwood Hall. This exciting journey began nearly one year ago when Chorus Director Janis Corley submitted an audition CD of the Heathwood choirs to Manhattan Concert Productions.

The choirs were chosen for the Octavo Series, which is designed for qualified high school singers to collaborate with one another on six varied works under the direction of nationally recognized conductor Z. Randall Stroope.

Stroope, who led members of the Heathwood A Cappella choirs upon taking the Carnegie Hall stage, is one of the most active choral conductors and composers working in the United States today. As Heathwood Hall senior Akida Lebby would attest, “It was super exciting to perform under one of the—in my opinion—best composers in the country.” Akida called the event quite simply, “Timeless.”  

In addition to Stroope’s numerous conducting engagements around the world, his compositions sell over 200,000 copies each year and are regularly performed by esteemed ensembles around the globe. Dr. Stroope has also conducted and recorded 13 professional compact discs, with recordings of his music airing on radio and television broadcasts across the country.

For Janis Corley, the trip to New York marked a significant achievement, “When I joined the Heathwood Hall faculty 7 years ago as the Upper School choral director, my dream was to build a choral program that would perform for our community and be on par with other quality choral programs throughout the state.  I never dreamed or could have imagined that we would be chosen to perform in such a prestigious venue. This performance adds to Heathwood Hall choirs’ growing reputation not only in Columbia and the state, but also nationally.”

In performing at Carnegie Hall, Heathwood students have etched their names in the archives of a venue that has played host to over 46,000 events since opening her doors in 1891, and served as the home of the New York Philharmonic for 70 years from 1892 until 1962. It is also widely believed that Carnegie Hall is the most prestigious stage in the U.S. and arguably one of the most prominent concert venues in the world.

Having shared the same stage as many of the world’s greatest entertainers, it is no surprise that students like Heathwood junior Braxton Crewell would note, “It was one of the biggest highlights of my life, especially when you think of the amazing performers who have been there. Getting a standing ovation at Carnegie was the most shocking moment, but it was amazing.”

Heathwood junior Sallie Cherry also shared a similar experience, “I was excited to perform at Carnegie Hall beforehand but as soon as I went in, my excitement went from a 9 out of 10 to a 30 out of 10.”
Despite the students’ understandable excitement, they remained poised as Mrs. Corley pointed out, “Having known these students for several years, I knew that they would be great ambassadors for Heathwood Hall and they rose to the occasion. The choirs demonstrated their preparation and performance skills so well that Dr. Stroope met with me and invited any future Heathwood choirs to travel with him on his European tours. We plan to perform under his direction the summer of 2014 and inviting choir alumnae to participate with us.”

While the Heathwood Music Program looks to the future and its continued participation in performances like the one at Carnegie Hall, Mrs. Corley did not pass up the opportunity to give credit to those who supported this most-recent trip, “I want to thank all of the parents and administrators, including Margaret Jones, Anne Weston, and Michael Eanes, for supporting us by traveling to see the performance.”

Truly, Heathwood Hall’s trip to New York and performance at Carnegie Hall was an achievement like none other for the program, but in the eyes and ears of Dr. Stroope, Janis Corley, and all those who witnessed our students firsthand, it may likely be the first of many exciting expeditions.