Headlining Carnegie Hall – the Waynesboro High School Concert Choir
Story by Chris Graham
Jeff Ryman got the buzz.
Carnegie Hall was on the line. Could he take the call?
He knew what it had to be about. And he knew it was going to be amazing news.
“I was alone in the choral suite, nobody around. And I sort of felt like I needed to go out and find somebody to tell. So I did actually go up to the office and found the principal. Because it’s such fantastic news – it’s like winning the lottery and not being able to tell anybody,” said Ryman, the choral director at Waynesboro High School, who was the first to get the news that the WHS Concert Choir had been selected to take part in a spring residency at Carnegie Hall that would culminate in a public performance at the world-renowned New York City venue on April 21.
The 67-member choral group has been working hard on an intricate 35-minute vocal selection since getting the news just before Christmas. And parents and teachers at the high school have been working on a fund-raising campaign to defray the costs of the $90,000, five-day trip to the Big Apple.
“This is a rare opportunity,” Ryman said in an interview for today’s “Augusta Free Press Show,” noting that locally only Harrisonburg High School’s choir has had the opportunity to enter into one of the residencies at Carnegie.
“It’s an exclusive gig. You really have to be at the top of the game to be offered the spot. And to not just get the offer, but then to actually do the work, is huge,” Ryman said.
Students and their families are being asked to account for about half of the costs associated with making the trip, which will include several hours of rehearsals with professional staff at Carnegie Hall in addition to the April 21 performance. The rest will come from a variety of sources, including several fund-raisers that the Concert Choir has in the works.
“We’re hearing lots of great things – lots of support, lots of people willing to help out, not just with money, but to run some of these events, and really support us as we do this really monumental experience, not just for the kids or for the school, but this really is a huge opportunity for our community. We have so many talented kids in this area. It’s really great to give them the opportunity to have this showcase,” Ryman said.
And Ryman, in his first year as the choral director at WHS, will have a part in the showcase as well. Ryman will become part of the choir for the week, meaning he will get his chance at a closeup as well.
“I’ve been to a concert there and sat on the other side, and really have seen what a magnificent hall it is. I’ve never been on the stage. And so it is going to be a huge experience. I’m sure that each one of us, me included, will be in awe the first time that we walk out there and actually put this thing together. And then when we walk out for the final performance, I know it’s going to be spectacular,” Ryman said.
– Feb. 29: Vera Bradley Bingo, Waynesboro High School cafeteria, 7-9 p.m.
– March 8: Second Chance Prom at Fairfax Hall
– March 15-16: Waynesboro High School Concert Choir Variety Show
– April 5: Indoor Yard Sale at WHS
– April 12: Send Off Concert, First Presbyterian Church, Downtown Waynesboro
For more information on the above events, call Waynesboro High School at 540.946.4616.
Chris Graham is the executive editor of The Augusta Free Press.