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By Matt Masters

mmasters@lebanondemocrat.com

The Wilson Central High School choir held its spring choral concert at the end of April, which marked the final school performance for 10 seniors.

Senior Christina Bailey, who was recognized as most dedicated, shared tears and hugs with her classmates after the performance. Bailey said her four-year commitment to the choir paid off in friendships and priceless memories to carry with her as she prepares for college.

“From day one, Mrs. Morin has been like a mom to me, somebody that I can always talk to, and the choir itself has always been a big dysfunctional family in a way,” Bailey said. “Without them, I feel like I wouldn’t be able to stand here tonight and feel as proud as I do.”

Wilson Central’s director of choral activities Lynn Morin said the group of choral students was especially important to her as they became more like family than simply students.

“Every year we finish our year in a traditional way. We sing traditional songs, and every time it just kind of signifies the end of four years for our kids but the other kids also connect with it because of the beauty of the text, the beauty of the music, and they’re very comfortable with it because they sing it every year,” Morin said. “This year’s senior class, as I said, was extremely special to me. I came into this job and didn’t know a soul moving to this area and these kids were literally my family from day one. They accepted me from day one, and they have stuck with me, and they just have my heart.”

While the school performance marked the end of the year for some, 18 students left on an airplane for a historic performance at Carnegie Hall in New York City, where they performed with Grammy-winning composer and conductor Eric Whitacre.

This once-in-a-lifetime opportunity was a focus of the chamber choir who has worked for months to prepare and perfect its performance and raise funds to travel for the April 28 performance.

Morin said it was possible because of the support for the arts throughout the community, Wilson County Schools and especially from the community and administration at Wilson Central.

“There are a lot of people here in Wilson County who love the arts, and it’s evident at all of our concerts, and I can just say thank you to those who do support the arts,” Morin said. “Sometimes these kids feel like they’re in the background, but on a night like tonight, they weren’t. They were in the spotlight.”

The Carnegie Hall performance is still almost unbelievable to some of the returning students who are more than aware of the unique opportunity in which they took part.

The buildup to the trip was described as nerve wracking and exciting by some of the students, but the tension soon melted away, said senior Audrey Darnell.

“As soon as he [Eric Whitacre] walked into the room, and we started, there was just this calm over everybody and we focused. As soon as we started to sing it was this unified, pure sound and all my worries were just out the door,” Darnell said. “Really he didn’t dwell on technical things because we had such a long amount of time to learn these pieces and kind of dig into them, and he really just being so knowledgeable about that stuff and expecting us to kind of rise to the occasion, he really just talked about the feeling of the music and the emotion that we wanted to convey and the picture in our minds, and that just delivers the song to another level,” Darnell said.

“For instance,” Junior Aelmira Esmaeilpour said, “one of the pieces is called, ‘I Carry Your Heart,’ and at first when we would sing it, no one was really as into it as much as he was hoping, so he just kind of started explaining things and saying how love should feel and just explaining what love is. That just hit a lot of people really deep and everyone got emotional, I cried when we re-sang it, and you could just tell that he could tell what a big difference it made from the beginning to after he explained everything. I think everyone realized that these songs aren’t just written to be sung, they’re written because they mean something.”

That professionalism and passion is something that stuck out to each performer and inspired some to consider involving music performance even deeper into their lives and plans post-graduation.

“It’s really cool to see someone who wrote the music conduct it, because I would watch him while he was conducting and at the end he would close his eyes, and it was almost like he was visualizing what he was saying with his writing. It’s all directly from him, you’re not getting it second hand or from a director who thinks they know what the composer wanted, you’re getting it from the composer who knows what he wants. It’s like his child almost,” sophomore Avery McClure said. “After this trip and seeing how Eric Whitacer was with his music, how it was like his child and seeing how excited he got when he heard what he wanted to hear, I’m considering going into composing or just joining a professional choir and totally threw my other plans out the window.”

In addition to their Carnegie Hall performance, the students visited many New York City landmarks like Central Park. When asked what the best thing besides the performance was, they all replied, “food,” in unison, Ellen’s Stardust Diner to be specific.

While the performance highlighted their hard work and talents, the students made sure to point out the leadership and support from Morin, someone who they all speak of as if she’s family, someone who’s helped them all become more connected.

“I think it just really highlights the caliber and the experience and the talent and the connections of our director. She’s the one who got us into this, she’s the one who lead us into this event and prepared us and I think that she’s just really helpful and amazing,” Darnell said. “She believed in us,” Esmaeilpour said. “She knew we would do it and she was right. This is why we love her.”

“She didn’t give up on us at all,” said junior Samantha Mored.

For Morin, this trip was an affirmation that she and her students had worked their hardest, never taking the opportunity to perform, whether it be in the walls of Wilson Central or Carnegie Hall for granted.

“Just as I had hoped, the first experience, the first rehearsal, the first time that they all sang together under Eric’s direction, it was just magical,” Morin said. “I knew from that point that everything was going to be fine, and I was specifically proud of their preparation. I worked them very hard, and the expectations were very high, and they completely rose to them. In rehearsal, they reaped the benefits of that. I know they realized that. They never reached for their binders of music not once, and that’s pretty cool. There were kids reaching for their binders from other schools, but my kids were just like, bring it. So I was very proud of them in that regard. I had some beautiful seats in Carnegie Hall right on the first tier, front box seats, and I got to see them come out, and it just made my heart swell that they had this experience, one that they will take with them for the rest of their lives. It may very well be a once-in-a-lifetime experience for many of them.”