Sponsors needed: AMS Honors Choir invited to sing at Carnegie Hall

It came like a bolt out of the blue: An invitation for the Appling Middle School Honors Choir to perform at Carnegie Hall this spring. The offer was so good that Choir Director Nick Wammack initially didn’t believe it was real.

So he deleted the email. But the invitations kept coming, and he eventually investigated and found that the invitation was real, based on the strength of the choir’s competition recordings from last year. Wammack had posted the videos online at bit.ly/AMS-Choir so students’ families could enjoy them.

The performance will be a first for the choral program.

“Never would I have dreamed to do this,” said Wammack, a 10-year veteran at AMS. “I think Carnegie Hall, I think high school or beyond, very professional. My students are professional, just at the middle school level. So I didn’t think they did anything for middle school groups.”

The choir was giddy and excited at the news, he said. Wammack described them as great kids who are like-minded and get along well.

“We’re all still floating on Cloud 9,” Wammack said. “The real work is beginning. It’s very interesting.”

Now it’s a matter of practice, practice, practice for the 31 students who will be going. They also are raising $150,000 to support the choir’s five-day and four-night trip to New York City. (That contrasts with the choir’s normal trip costs of about $10,000.)

Corporate sponsors, local business owners and individuals are encouraged to donate online. Visit the Appling Middle School Choir Booster’s Go Fund Me account at https://www.gofundme.com/appling-ms-invited-to-carnegie-hall.

“It’s a big thing for Bartlett, it’s a huge thing for Appling, it’s a major thing for our school district, and we just know that the community will rally behind us and engage in the excitement for this opportunity for our choir students,” Wammack said.

The AMS Choir program includes five choirs composed of about 100 male and female students in sixth, seventh and eighth grades. The invitation was for the Honors Choir to perform, so Wammack created a Trip Honors Choir and opened the opportunity to students throughout the entire choir program.

He explained, “It was too good of an opportunity to just say, ‘Okay, only these people can go.’”

In New York, they will spend about 9-10 hours each day in rehearsals for the concert’s 38 minutes of music. They will be performing with students from other middle schools, totaling a 250-voice invitation-only choir.

The choral event will be “The Music of Russell L. Robinson” on May 5, 2019, in the Isaac Stern Auditorium at Carnegie Hall. Robinson, an emeritus professor of music education at the University of Florida, is a published author, composer and arranger with more than 450 publications in print. He also has made over 300 appearances as a conductor, speaker, consultant and presenter around the world. Robinson will lead the performance and will serve as the clinician for the residency.

The invitation to perform at the concert recognizes the AMS Honors Choir’s dedication to musical excellence through their overall body of work.

“We do music of all different genres,” Wammack said. “My goal is to expose them to what music is, ranging from sacred music to secular, pop to Beethoven. My goal is to teach them the ‘why’ of what they’re doing, the mechanics behind it, rather than just singing. It’s just ‘Why are you doing what you are doing’ instead of it coming from me because I said so. When I ask them a question, I want them to be able to to tell me what they are doing.”

Dr. Jonathan Griffith, artistic director and principal conductor for the Distinguished Concerts International New York City concert series, said, “The Appling Middle School Honors Choir received this invitation because of the quality and high level of musicianship demonstrated by the singers as well as the exceptional quality of their audition recording. It is quite an honor just to be invited to perform in New York. These wonderful musicians not only represent a high quality of music and education, but they also become ambassadors for the entire community. This is an event of extreme pride for everybody and deserving of the community’s recognition and support.”

For more information on this trip, contact Wammack at twammack@bartlettschools.org.