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Four Hen Hud Students Perform in National Honors Choirs

In a first for Hen Hud, four of the district’s music students traveled to Kansas City, Missouri, to perform with the ACDA (American Choral Directors Association) National Honor Choirs.  2,500 high school and college students, along with 1,200 middle school students, auditioned for the opportunity to perform at the association’s annual conference. At the high school and collegiate level, 17 singers were selected from New York and three of those were from Hendrick Hudson HS: Kiely Beltran, Rachel Moon and Matthew Quarles. At the middle school level, 300 student musicians were selected out of 1,200 -- and one of them was Tony Mills from Blue Mountain Middle School!

All of the students had to prepare extensive audition recordings with teachers Erica Denler and Kimberly Dunkin. The recordings were evaluated in the early fall and, in November, the news came that Kiely, Rachel and Matthew had been accepted into the High School National Honor Choirs, and that eighth grader Tony Mills was accepted into the Middle School National Honor Choir.  The four students spent the next three months learning some of the most challenging and difficult music they had ever sung.

Once in Kansas City, the students spent four days rehearsing with their guest conductors, spending eight to 10 hours a day practicing. The guest conductors were Dr. Sandra Snow from Michigan State University (Women's Honor Choir), Dr. Jefferson Johnson from The University of Kentucky (Men’s Honor Choir), and Dr. Derrick Fox from University of Nebraska - Omaha (Middle School Honor Choir).  The performances took place in the beautiful Helzberg Hall at the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts.

A highlight of the experience was Matthew Quarles receiving a solo in one of the pieces. Guest conductor Dr. Johnson told Mrs. Denler, "You should be very proud of your student. He auditioned against 100 other young men and is a phenomenal singer!”

After her experience singing with the Women's Honor Choir, Rachel Moon said, "I am so grateful to have been given the opportunity to participate in this event -- I will remember this forever!” Kiely Beltran added, "If it wasn't for Mrs. Denler opening so many doors for us and helping us grow so much, we wouldn't have had this opportunity." 

"I have never heard such an incredible sound from a choral ensemble,” said Mrs. Denler. “I felt such pride watching our own Hen Hud students as they sang in the most beautiful concert venue, along with the best singers from the country.  I am so grateful that these incredibly deserving students were selected for this event, and that I teach in a district that is so supportive that we can continue to provide the means to let them participate."

Like the high school students, eighth grader Tony Mills spent four days rehearsing with others from around the country, putting in extremely long days of practice. Dr. Derrick Fox from the University of Nebraska-Omaha directed the Middle School Honor Choir; Tony had previously worked with Dr. Fox at a statewide honors choir last summer in Albany. In fact, Dr. Fox made a point to encourage Tony to audition for the ACDA Honor Choir. Tony spent countless hours at home learning the difficult music, including six pieces in four different languages.

“I think one of the best parts about this experience was learning that every piece we perform tells a story, and it is our job as performers to communicate our version of the story to the audience,” said Tony. “I met other singers from all around the country, and it was an amazing experience working with Dr. Fox again.”

BMMS choral teacher Mrs. Dunkin said, “I cannot believe how hard Tony has worked to prepare for this event. He did it completely on his own, which I believe is a testament to how dedicated he is when it comes to singing. The fact that Dr. Fox noticed this in him out of a chorus of 200 students is truly spectacular. I am so incredibly proud of him.”

Tony Mills and Dr. Fox

Rachel Moon, Kiely Beltran, and Matthew Quarles at ACDA Honor Choir conference