School ensemble earns chance to perform at Carnegie Hall

School ensemble earns chance to perform at Carnegie Hall
The Pacific Ridge School a cappella group earns the chance to perform at Carnegie Hall. Left to right: Back row: Ryan Niemeyer, David Hines, Carson Wilder, Lincoln Ballif, Mitch Guerin, Donner Hansen, Ian Geckeler, Kieran Naughton, Jake Smith, Sage Sanders, Joey Ross, Steven Dziekonski (music teacher); Front row: Annika Gullahorn, Ciara Corbeil, Lauren McMillen, Meghan Bacher, Stephanie Sapp, Shannon Smith, Jazzy Lahsaiezadeh, Mikaela Kearns, Hannah Dickson, Sabrina Harb. Photo courtesy of Jolesch Photography

CARLSBAD — A select group of Carlsbad students from Pacific Ridge School received an invitation to perform at Carnegie Hall in New York City. Their A Cappella Ensemble flew to New York for its March 18 National Youth Choir Festival debut and stayed in the city for an extended weekend. 

The Pacific Ridge School a cappella group, formed three years ago, has garnered the attention of the Heritage Music Festival for two straight years, earning them a gold award, and allowing them the opportunity to sing at Carnegie Hall.

“The group must achieve a gold rating at the Heritage Festival for at least two consecutive years to qualify,” said Steven Dziekonski, music teacher and arts coordinator at Pacific Ridge School. “Invitations are then extended at the discretion of the Heritage Festival adjudicators; not all gold award groups are invited to attend.”

The students first performed at the Heritage Music Festivals in Anaheim, and the following year, in San Francisco. Generally, students perform three a cappella selections which can take approximately 20 minutes.

Students were judged on an assortment of measures such as tone, blend, intonation, diction, musical choice, and more. The judging is rigorous and attaining a gold win is challenging.

“In a short period of time, in three years our singers have distinguished themselves as top, high school choral musicians,” he said.

The Pacific Ridge School A Cappella Ensemble consists of 30 students, which includes 11 boys and 19 girls.

An a cappella ensemble, Dziekonski said, is a select group of singers that perform a wide variety of a cappella choral music, including Renaissance, folk, spirituals, contemporary, and world music.

On average, their students rehearse three hours per week in class.

“Participating in the National Youth Choir Festival is a unique, and likely once in a lifetime opportunity for our students,” he said.

In New York, the Carlsbad ensemble sung along with 150 other excellent students from various high school choirs across the nation. They were conducted by the renown, Dr. Eph Ehly, and were accompanied by professional instrumentalists.

Their performance at Carnegie Hall included “Esto Les Digo” by Kinley Lange, “Still Wie Die Nacht” by Karl Bohm, “Anthem for Spring” by Petro Mascagni, “Salutation to the Dawn” by Carl Mueller, “Jamaican Marketplace” by Larry Farrow and “Gospel America,” a patriotic medley arranged by Scott Farthing.

Dziekonski described the performance to be a challenging and exciting college-level choral repertoire. When the Pacific Ridge School students arrived to New York, they rehearsed for three days prior to the much-anticipated Sunday evening performance.

“Having the opportunity to sing in a world famous concert hall on the same stage where musicians such as Richard Strauss, Duke Ellington, and the Beatles have performed is going to be an amazing experience,” he said.

Dziekonski is quick to point out that he doesn’t use the word “talent” to describe their student singers. Instead, he calls them well-rounded, accomplished young women and men.

“They are known for their outstanding academic, athletic, and artistic achievements, and these are a result of their ability, dedication, and perseverance as students at Pacific Ridge School,” he said.

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