In 2019, Middle School/Upper School Choral Music Teacher Heidi Taylor attended a workshop for music teachers at Carnegie Hall. While she was there, she spoke to the families of a choir preparing to perform. She wondered how she could help Steward choir students have the same opportunity at this iconic New York City concert venue. A national historic landmark, Carnegie Hall opened in 1891, and countless performers have graced its stages, from Tchaikovsky to Billie Holiday to the Beatles.
“Then the pandemic hit,” recalled Ms. Taylor, “and, although I put the idea on hold, I couldn’t stop thinking about it. I talked to my students about someday having a Steward group perform in NYC. This year, we made it work!”
In February, Ms. Taylor and 24 Middle School and Upper School students traveled by train to Carnegie Hall. She noted that the students worked hard to learn the material quickly. “It was a significant amount of adult-level material, and we needed to learn it in a matter of weeks,” she said. At Carnegie Hall, the group rehearsed with other youth and adult choir groups. Ms. Taylor loved watching her students in a professional setting, “where they rose to the occasion and enjoyed being part of a large ensemble.”
On Presidents Day, the choir took the stage and performed seven selections, including “Bound for the Promised Land,” “My Song in the Night,” and “Simple Gifts,” all of which were arranged by conductor Mack Wilberg, music director of the Tabernacle Choir. The appreciative audience included Steward choir members’ family and friends. Ms.Taylor, who performed alongside her students, said, “Being onstage at Carnegie Hall is a memorable experience. The view from the stage is amazing, as is knowing you are performing on the same stage as legends. It was incredibly rewarding to help my students learn the music and then get to sing with them.”
The singers’ trip to Carnegie Hall exemplifies Steward’s commitment to helping students foster meaningful connections with others and explore the bounds of their creativity.
Choir member Connor Murray ’24 especially enjoyed singing “Bound for the Promised Land,” an upbeat song “and the piece we worked the hardest on to perfect,” he said. “The song's meaning stuck with me, as it discusses the journey toward peace and eternal happiness.” The Steward choir travels to a number of sites during the school year, from retirement homes to competitions. “Music is uplifting, and giving others the opportunity to hear our voices spreads joy to them and to me,” said Connor.
In between rehearsals and the performance, the Steward choir took in some of the city’s sights. They dined at the famous Ellen’s Stardust Cafe, toured the Top of the Rock observation deck at Rockefeller Center to view some of the city’s landmarks, and took in a performance of “MJ the Musical” at the Neil Simon Theatre.
Ms. Taylor looks forward to future opportunities for the choir. “I am hopeful we can continue to pursue these types of performances and experiences!” she said.