New York City’s Carnegie Hall is known as the most prestigious concert stage in the United States. With its own artistic programming, development and marketing departments, Carnegie Hall presents about 250 world-class performances each season.

Mound Westonka High School junior vocalists Sarah Brammer and Camryn Ess got to experience the venue first-hand in February after being invited to perform in the 2018 High School Honors Performance Series.

To say that the trip was the opportunity of a lifetime is an understatement. Just 700 students were chosen for the elite group from the 12,000 students who were nominated from around the world. Both MWHS students got emotional talking about the experience.

“Words can’t explain the amazing experience of singing at Carnegie Hall -- I still can’t believe it,” said Ess. “I cried when we had to leave.”

“During the concert I teared up after and even during almost every song,” said Brammer. “There was so much passion and love for music from everyone around me.”

Although the students performed with two different choirs, they each spent two full days rehearsing for the event. Rehearsals and a sound check were performed the morning of Feb. 4, followed by a two-hour concert in the afternoon.

“Rehearsals were rigorous and rewarding, because of the attention to detail and yearning for perfection,” said MWHS Choir Director Kelly Newell. “I was impressed with their dedication and resilience during this process.”

In addition to rehearsals, the girls took in “Hello Dolly” starring Bernadette Peters on Broadway, toured Rockefeller Center and Times Square, and took a cruise on the Hudson River, where they were able to see the Statue of Liberty.

The boat cruise and party after the performance were the favorite part of the 5-day trip for Ess. “It really gave me an opportunity to meet lots of amazing people!” she said.

Ess really liked her director, who said, “I don’t think it’s a coincidence that God placed your vocal chords between your head and your heart.”

“That really made me think,” said Ess. “I really just loved being able to sing with a group of other amazing singers.”

Brammer’s favorite part of the trip was the final performance in Carnegie Hall. “After three days of rehearsing our six songs, we got to show all of our hard work to an amazing audience,” she said. “It was the most amazing musical experience I have ever had and I am so grateful for the opportunity.”

“I am so proud of the work and dedication these girls have given to the art of singing,” said Newell. “They are both very talented musicians and deserving of this accolade.”

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