The Road to Carnegie
By Tiffany Berkebile ’10
I entered A
Cappella Choir auditions, warmed up, and Director Debra Lynn handed me a
piece of music. She played a scale in the song’s key, looked up at me,
and told me to sing without accompaniment. No one had ever expected me
to sight read music a cappella in my life. I was terrified I wasn’t good
enough. It was September 2006.
Less than a year
later, I was singing at Carnegie Hall, completely confident of myself
and in eight-part harmony with a 50-member choir.
As a first-year
student, I found the past year to be the epitome of a “learning
experience.” I learned that
being in a group is better than going solo because you get to share your
love of music. I sang in Italian, German, English, Hebrew and Latin. And
I learned that laughter has its own kind of melody, always present in
important lesson was one of friendship. As
Nicole Andersen ’10 aptly
phrased it, “Choir isn’t just a musical experience, it’s a community
experience.” Allison Hoover ’07,
my Alto II section leader, observed, “Choir has always felt like
family.” The sentiment applies to many members, me included.
From left: tenor Zach Blatz, soprano Katie McCann, tenor Kacie
Gauby and tenor Jeff Combs
attitude of the choir turned decidedly more realistic as we gathered our
things and boarded the bus to Carnegie Hall on May 21. We were all
traveling within 2 feet of at least five other people, reminiscent of
family and the little irritations that arise with such proximity. We
finally inhaled our first whiff of NYC after two days of traveling,
giving church concerts, and spending the night with our incredible
home-stay hosts in Ohio
We stayed in New York City for three
days, singing four to seven hours each day and then rushing off to enjoy
our precious free time exploring the
City. It was truly the
city that never sleeps and we all tried to rival its energy, doing
everything possible while we could. I saw two Broadway musicals, a
breathtaking midnight view from the
observation deck and an open rehearsal of the New York Philharmonic. I
didn’t get to do everything that I’d intended.
The concert itself was enough to make me grateful I was ever
Tiffany discovers it's a tad windy atop the Empire State Building
Looking out into
the audience on Saturday night, May 26, I was surprised how small and
intimate the Hall is. I had expected grandiosity, but this was a
smaller, more-elegant setting than I’d imagined. I looked in awe out
into the same 2,800 seats some of the most talented musicians in the
world had seen before me. We inhaled the history so inherently present
in this Hall, realizing we were becoming a part of that legacy. We
opened with an a cappella composition that bounded off of the resonant
walls in the fourth balcony and returned to our ears almost instantly.
yourself just as the audience hears you – and very few halls can do
that,” explained Dr. Lynn, who had the honor of conducting our choir in
a preview concert, and the combined choirs that performed at 7 p.m.
“That’s why performers all over the world love to play and sing at
Robert Bucher ’07 performed
a solo in Prayer for Peace,
which was composed by Dr. Debra DeWitt, an associate professor of music
who has since left the College. Many in the choir said afterward that
Robbie had never sounded more moving or more heartfelt.
As we sang, eyes
swelled with tears, in the audience and on stage. Most of the seniors
were weeping as they exited the stage; others joined in the emotion.
Back in our rehearsal room, the seniors shared parting words with the
choir. Julie Thompson ’07
offered practical advice: “We’ll probably never be in a choir this good
again. It’ll never be the same, so suck the life out of it while you
alumni often join the A Cappella Choir for tours and performances, it
will never be the same. The people will never be the same, the director
may never be as amazing as Dr. Lynn or be as connected with her
students, and I’ll never again be young, in college, and thirsting quite
as strongly for new experiences. (Because, hopefully, I’ll have had more
than my fair share of new experiences by the time I rejoin as a choir
I learned a lot
going to Carnegie Hall, especially to cherish every little adventure
along the way, because while the big events are amazing, they’re mostly
comprised of their journeys.
The trip to
Carnegie Hall took 16 hours on a bus. It began long before that,
however, with a year of intensive rehearsal and one final week of
five-hour daily rehearsals in
New York City.
Singing on a stage in the footsteps of such great performers as
Tchaikovsky, the Beatles, Pavarotti and Sinatra was worth every minute
of time invested. More than that, the time was worth itself. Carnegie
Hall wasn’t the goal of our hard work: It was the reward.
Our “arrival” at
Carnegie Hall was amazing, but the road that led there and continues to
lead in many other directions required the heart and soul of A Cappella
Choir. That’s the real memory to be cherished.