Nine talented students from Daniels Run Elementary School in Fairfax will soon be jetting off to Florida after being selected to perform at a prestigious national music teachers convention.
The seven sixth graders and two fifth graders made it through a tough audition process competing against elementary-aged students from across the US and Canada.
The young choristers will be amongst more than 100 students performing in front of an audience of school music teachers at the Organization of American Kodály Educators (OAKE) National Conference in March.
"When I sing, it feels like I’m floating in a space of my own, flying away from the world and all its problems,” said sixth grader Nelson Doll during a rehearsal one February afternoon.
“Sometimes my sister gets really annoyed when I’m practicing. She’ll say, ‘Nelson, stop singing.’ Then my grandma tells her, ‘You just wait until he is a professional singer.'”
For fifth-grader Grace Bhatia, a musical collaboration with her peers gives her an opportunity to pursue something she loves in a group setting.
“I get a little shy by myself but when you are singing with others, it is different,” she said. “When I heard that I had made it through the audition, I was screaming because I was so excited.”
The five day trip to Jacksonville comes thanks to the dedication of Daniels Run Music and Chorus Specialist, Michelle McCarten. Last year, she selected a group of choral students, rehearsed, and then recorded a submission for consideration.
McCarten knew the group was talented, but getting nine students accepted was a proud moment. To ensure all those selected could afford to go, she coordinated a gift wrap drive to pay for some expenses.
She recalls the excitement of breaking the news. “When I told one of the boys, he started running around the classroom with excitement and we all celebrated and clapped,” she said.
The two fifth-graders, Ranya Elahi and Grace Bhatia, will perform in the OAKE National Children's Choir along with 162 others in grades 4-6.. The seven sixth-graders; Katie Bubb, Nelson Doll, Christopher Ovando Torres, Eric Wyche Lana Ironroad, Mikayla Ironroad and Annika Shendrikar, will perform with OAKE National Youth Treble Choir with 141 other singers in grades 6-8.
Currently, the singers are busy learning up to eight pieces and rehearsing multiple times a week ahead of the five-day trip beginning on March 15. Across the country, other students are doing the same.
When they arrive they will meet for the first time and spend three full days in rehearsal.
Amongst the music being performed is a traditional Ukrainian song and a Macedonian folk song along with pieces by Schubert and Bach.