Student performs for second time at Carnegie Hall

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The first time SVSU theatre student Jenny Cohen went to Carnegie Hall in New York City, she was a senior in high school and was nominated for the High School Honors Performance Series at Carnegie Hall by her voice teacher.

While it was a new and intimidating experience, it ultimately proved fruitful for the young singer.

“I was selected and received my music, which I had to prepare on my own,” she said. “I flew to New York that February and collaborated with about 200 other singers from around the world. We had a great time.”

This past summer, Cohen received an email from the Honors Performance Series requesting her to audition for the Young Adult Honors Performance Series – an event intended for young singers who are between the ages of 18 and 25. She said she sent in tapes a second time and was selected to perform once more.

“So again, I sent in tapes and was selected,” she said. “I worked under the direction of Jeffrey Redding, who was incredible. I spent a week there, and Sunday, Feb. 5, was the show.”

Redding is the director of Choral Activities at the West Orange High School in Winter Garden, Florida, and oversaw the Honors Performance Series Carnegie Hall Performance.

The Young Adult Honors Performance Series occurred from Feb. 2 to Feb. 6 in Carnegie Hall, and the series assembled talented college students from across the country to perform on the Ronald O. Perelman stage.
The series and event challenges musicians to work with conductors, network with fellow musicians and further their own skills.

A sample itinerary includes general information for each performer, including a panel discussion with New York City musicians, rehearsals and the performance. The series works with a rotating group of well-known conductors, including Sally Albrecht, H. Robert Reynolds, Charles Peltz and Jeffery L. Ames.

Cohen said during the high school performance, her group had chaperones when they explored New York City. During the adult choir performance, though, they took responsibility to explore the city themselves while making each performance rehearsal on-time.

“While we were on the trip, we saw the Broadway Musical ‘Kinky Boots,’ and we took a workshop with Sean Patrick Doyle – one of the drag queens from the show,” she said. “We also met with the music director from ‘Fiddler on the Roof on Broadway.’ We also took a yacht tour around the Statue of Liberty. It was incredible.”

Finalists are nominated by international musicians or music teachers or are self-nominated, and each applicant submits an application and recording. Then, the applicant receives a notification via email that informs them of their acceptance status – finalist, runner-up or deferment.

Cohen’s fellow participant and good friend Erika Boychenko, said her experience at Carnegie Hall was unlike anything she had done before, as the rehearsal times were demanding.

“However, even though I was exhausted, I was thrilled and excited,” she said. “With every rehearsal we sounded better and better … I met so many great people there and I will miss them terribly.”

Boychenk said being on stage brought tears to her eyes as Carnegie Hall had a rich history of performers and performances.

“To think that I was singing on stage where so many professionals had sung before was unbelievable and magical,” she said. “I will forever remember my trip because it made me more confident in my singing ability, my future as a singer and the connections that I made.”

Cohen said at both her high school and college performances, Carnegie Hall was supporting a full house, and said she knew it was a big opportunity but she felt small looking at the crowd.

“It was truly a special moment,” she said. “The second time I knew what to expect and what the hall would feel like, and this time, singing under the direction of Dr. Redding, who I admire immensely, I felt more confident and excited, rather than nervous or overwhelmed.”

Boychenko said she would recommend this to vocal students because it helps build experience and one’s resume.

“This kind of performance can bring so many questions up during an interview for a job,” she said. “But, putting future jobs aside, the experience is one in a lifetime. This is the most important of the two, because it changes the way you think and feel about yourself and music.”

Cohen, too, said she would recommend the experience to any young, budding vocalist as it teaches students that larger opportunities are available and they are obtainable.

“I mean, singing on the same stage where the Beatles once performed is a pretty awesome thing to be able to say,” she said. “It also teaches discipline as far as learning repertoire on your own and then coming together to put on a concert in one week.”

She added, “All in all, I just feel so lucky to be able to share my experience and hopefully inspire others to go out there and do what they love to do most.”