VHS singers take a B I T E of the Big Apple Vermillion High School concert choir members Jennifer Dickenson, Kirsten Korte and Tim Margheim immerse themselves in the culture of New York City by enjoying hot dogs from a street vendor. by David Lias How do you get to Carnegie Hall?
Practice, practice, practice.
Members of the Vermillion High School concert choir learned there is a bit of truth to that corny joke.
In the wee hours of April 14, the local vocalists and their chaperones boarded a bus, drove to Omaha, climbed aboard an airliner, and flew to New York City.
They had more than just sightseeing in mind, however. They fulfilled a dream that nearly every musician often considers.
They performed in Carnegie Hall April 16.
Jeanne Dahlin, Vermillion High School's choral director, notes that the experience wasn't all work and no play for the students.
"With good humor and forbearance, they endured rooms not quite ready, rainy walks and a cancelled flight," she said. "They ate hot dogs, lox and bagels, calamari with tentacles and frequented Starbucks."
The students also saw the Empire State Building in the mist, the Lincoln Center Halls, Greenwich Village, Ellis Island and Central Park.
Thirty-seven students from Vermillion made the trip. There were representatives of all four of VHS classes. "There were probably more seniors than anyone else, but I do know we had five freshmen in the choir," Dahlin said.
The Vermillion students traveled in New York to perform as part of the Upper Midwest Youth Chorale, made up of more than 350 voices from South Dakota, Iowa and Colorado.
Ironically, even though the Vermillion group was in New York by early Friday afternoon, it didn't step foot into Carnegie Hall until shortly before it joined the other chorale students Sunday.
"We actually never practiced at Carnegie Hall," Dahlin said. "We practiced in the ballroom of the hotel we stayed in, which actually was really a very pretty place."
The Upper Midwest Youth Chorale was directed by Larry Torkelson, professor of music at The University of South Dakota. It performed seven songs during its 45 minute concert.
Vermillion students weren't the only South Dakota voices heard in Carnegie Hall. Over 50 students from Freeman also participated in the youth chorale.
Dahlin said the students spent their first afternoon in New York rehearsing, eating lunch, settling into the hotel rooms and becoming oriented to a place that is much different than South Dakota.
"But Friday evening, we went to see a Broadway play," Dahlin said. "On Saturday, they practiced in the morning and the afternoon. That evening, we had selected a number of restaurants, and they could choose the restaurant they wanted to visit."
The students built up a good appetite just getting to the restaurants.
"We walked to them, and they were pretty good hikes (from the hotel)," Dahlin said.
After eating, the students visited the Empire State Building.
"It happened to be a really foggy night. The fog was swirling around, but at least while we were there, the fog broke and we could see the lights everyplace," Dahlin said. "It was a unique experience."
On Sunday morning, the students took advantage of other sight-seeing opportunities. "We had a selection of things the kids could do," Dahlin said. "They could go downtown to Greenwich Village, they could go the Lincoln Center, they could go the Central Park or they could go to the Guggenheim Museum. We had different chaperones going to each place, so we broke up that morning and went to different places."
On Monday, with the Carnegie Hall performance behind them, the Vermillion students took advantage of the final hours their final hours in the Big Apple.
"On Monday, we left our hotel at about 3 p.m., so we got up early that morning, took the subway to the tip of Manhattan and we took the ferry to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island," Dahlin said. "It was raining, it was cold, and we got wet. We then returned to the hotel, got on the bus and went to the airport to fly home to discover that our flight had been cancelled."
That meant students arrived home about three hours later than originally planned.
Dahlin said she knew from the time that students began preparing for the New York trip months ago that the experience would be a success for the Vermillion singers.
"What was so gratifying to me was how much all of the kids really wanted to be there to see New York," Dahlin said. "They took every opportunity they could to get out in the city and see things, rather than stay in their rooms, and that really pleased me."
Often times the Vermillion youth had to trudge long distances in cool, rainy weather to reach various destinations in the city.
But they never complained.
"They just were good sports," Dahlin said. "That was more than I expected it to be. I really was amazed at their good humor and the way they acted. It was wonderful."
The VHS concert choir members also experienced the splendor of Carnegie Hall firsthand.
"What we found out is the acoustics are just marvelous," Dahlin said. "You really can hear very, very well. You can't help but be struck by what a lovely hall it is."
The Upper Midwest Youth Choir performed before a large audience. "It was a full house, and it really was very, very impressive," Dahlin said.
Last April wasn't the first time that Torkelson had conducted a youth choir in New York.
"He really put it together," Dahlin said. "He made the contact in New York in terms of the group that gets you into these concert hall engagements. And he was just very persuasive. He came to the school and talked to the kids about it."
He received an enthusiastic response from the VHS concert choirs. The choir members, in turn, received a positive reaction from the Vermillion community as they began collecting funds to help offset the costs of the trip.
"I am very grateful to the community," Dahlin said.
Students and faculty involved in the New York trip offer their thanks to the Vermillion school administration, the school board, and the Vermillion Music Boosters.
Dahlin also notes that Rebecca Aga, Anne Dunham, Mary Engstrom, Betty Johnson, Anita Nelson, Susan Odson and Steve Riedlinger also made the trip possible by taking time to chaperone the event.
"The students also offer their deepest thanks to all the individuals, organizations and businesses that helped us make this great opportunity a reality," Dahlin said.