NICKERSON - The first time Nickerson High School student Kennedy Davis will fly is when she boards a plane to New York City to perform at Carnegie Hall.

For a number of Nickerson High students, the coming trip to the Big Apple will mark either their first flight or their first time in New York. For all 20 members of the Nickerson High School Madrigals, it will be the first time performing as part of a mass choir on stage at Carnegie.

Even the New York-based composer and conductor Francisco Nunez will mark with the June 24 performance. It will be the world premiere of his piece, “Liminality.”

Scott Logan, vocal music instructor for Grades 7-12 in Nickerson-South Hutchinson USD 309, traces this trek to New York back to February 2017. The Madrigals participated in a music festival at Friends University, Wichita, and Nunez, director of the Young People's Choir of New York City, was the guest conductor. He worked with the school groups individually and also in a mass choir at Friends.

Ron Chronister was another link between central Kansas and New York. For about 35 years, Chronister was a music teacher in Halstead-Bentley USD 440. Since 2013, he has been an associate of Nunez and is executive director for National Initiatives and director of education for the Young People’s Chorus of New York City.

As the list of schools was prepared for invites to perform in the June 24 mass choir at Carnegie, Chronister suggested including Kansas students, Logan said.

In addition to the Nickerson High Madrigals, the Haysville Middle School Treble Choir also will participate. Other students singing in the mass choir at Carnegie are coming from California, Washington, New York, Wyoming, Maryland, Texas, and Delaware, as well as Finland, Ireland, and China.

In all, four works - all composed by Nunez - will be performed: “Forever is My Song,” “Naturaleza,” “Liminality,” and “Es Tu Tiempo.”

Practice, practice

“Make sure you get a good breath there,” Logan told the three sopranos, Haylee Dodson, Kora Borders, and Brakelle Bullock, as he guided them through the music.

The sopranos' practice time started at 9 a.m. Thursday in the music room at Nickerson High. The altos then arrived for their 10:30 a.m. rehearsal. Tenors and bass rehearse separately, too, and there is combined rehearsal time as well. 

“It’s kind of difficult, but we’re getting it,” said alto Briley Harbert of the music.

Two songs have Spanish lyrics and all the songs demand that students pay attention so they know when their voices are needed. Fortunately, Logan said, the students will be allowed to bring their music on stage.

Rehearsals began in May and students rely on printed music sheets and the audio of a choir performing the songs to learn.

“Let’s try it with the recording,” Logan said, and the sound coming through the large speaker masked the Nickerson voices.

Logan methodically covered the stanzas with the students, standing at the piano and hitting piano keys, singing along. Sometimes, they repeated passages.i

“Better. Do it again?” Logan asked.

“One more time,” Dodson said.

Times Square

Nickerson High began planning this trip in 2017, successfully raising more than $40,000. The students will travel by bus to Kansas City International Airport and fly nonstop to LaGuardia Airport. They are booked - four to a room - at the Sheraton in Times Square.

In addition to four official chaperones, there will be other adults and families planning travel to New York in conjunction with the performance. The overall entourage will be about 40 to 50 people, Logan said.

The students will rehearse for four hours on Friday, June 22, and again on Saturday, June 23. A dress rehearsal will take place Sunday morning, June 24, and the performance will start at 2 p.m. Sunday. The group will return Monday, June 25.

The schedule will allow for sightseeing. They will see the 9/11 memorial and also take in a Broadway musical, “Wicked.” Logan chuckled about “a bunch of Kansas kids” going to New York to see a musical created from “The Wizard of Oz.”

Logan sent the students’ heights to the mass choir organizer, and the singers will be placed accordingly on stage. The dress code calls for traditional tuxedos for the boys and all-black for the girls.

Logan will wear a tux, too, but he and other school directors will be observers during the concert. In the end, though, they will get their place in the limelight when they take a bow.