College singers play Carnegie Hall

Tuesday, September 13, 2005
Members of McCook Community College's "Sound Investment" vocal group pause for a photo during this summer's visit to New York. Members, not in order, include Valerie Bowles, Kasey Clapp, Kendra Cobb, Andrea Eisenhart, Michael Garretson, Joe Haag, Hannah Loshbaugh, Adam Powers, Sara Wilcox-Powers, Lisa Remington, Brett Ricley, John Evans, Carl Philo, Ashley Carman, Cinda Coleman and Megan Province. (MCC photo)

NEW YORK -- For artists with musical aspirations, a performance at New York's famed Carnegie Hall is a goal few ever realize, but for McCook Community College musicians, Carnegie Hall is only the beginning.

Following a summer in which the MCC choir "Sound Investment" performed an Aaron Copland Concert at the famous New York venue, college officials have pledged to re-emphasize music on campus with plans to continue the momentum of the vocal music program, revive the instrumental program, and give music a permanent new home in Tipton Hall.

Music and theater are the focus of the Tipton Hall remodeling where a new experimental theater is being built on the northeast side of the building and the music department being remodeled on the southeast side. These two departments are essentially changing places.

Part of the cost is sponsored by the estate of Dr. Henry O. and June Weeth, which left a gift to the McCook College Foundation, which is contributing about $20,000 for state-of-the art sound and lighting and $13,000 for a piano lab, a project which college officials believe will help put the emphasis back on music.

While the music department awaits a new home, MCC's vocal music program attained a crowning achievement with the New York trip. Sandy Weigel, vocal music instructor at MCC, said the opportunity to perform at Carniege Hall came on the heels of an award-winning choir performance in Branson, Mo in 2003.

The MCC choir was one of five which received an invitation in May of 2004 to perform in this year's Aaron Copland concert. MCC joined groups from DeSoto and Wamego High Schools in Kansas, a group from Lincoln Christian in Nebraska and a boys choir from Chattanooga, Tenn.

The McCook College Foundation contributed about $8,000 for the trip, about one-third of the cost.

"The McCook College Foundation's support for this trip was appreciated greatly by all involved in the project," choir director Sandy Weigel said.

MCC funded about one third and local choir members raised the other third through fund raising activities like a highly successful dinner concert in May at the Bieroc Café, as well as receiving many donations.

All five groups were under the direction of Rod Walker, from Kansas State University, who is a McCook High School graduate.

The 16-member choir boarded a bus June 21 in McCook and returned June 28.

While in New York, Weigel said the groups spent about five hours in rehearsal each day, then enjoyed taking in New York. She said they attended "Phantom of The Opera" at the Majestic Theatre. They took in a 50s-60s theme dinner show, toured the Empire State Building and took a four-hour bus tour of Greenwich Village, Soho, Central Park, Museum Row, and a cruise of the bay and the Statute of Liberty and an emotional stop at Ground Zero.

The group rehearsed for about six hours on the day of the concert June 26 and Weigel said some students began to realize the rich historical significance of Carnegie Hall, when they saw posters and programs promoting the Carnegie performances of musicians like "The Beatles."

She said the concert was very well received and attended by about 400. The least expensive ticket cost $65. The group performed a nine-song tribute to Aaron Copland called "Old American Songs."

"These students worked very hard and were very well prepared," she said.

The group was accompanied by the New England Symphonic Ensemble.

"The students were extremely excited about New York, but when they came back, I think they were glad to be from the Midwest and glad to be going back to the Midwest," Weigel said.

She starts her fourth year teaching music classes at MCC as adjunct faculty. She's been a music teacher at McCook High School for 18 years. Evie Caldwell, another teacher in the McCook Public School system also teaches applied piano, voice and organ classes at MCC this fall.

This fall, Sound Investment choir will continue performing vocal jazz pieces including some of the standards and classic choral literature. The MCC vocal department has provided national anthem singers at MCC athletic events for the past three years and will continue to do so.

New to the MCC faculty this fall is Glenda Baker, who will teach "Music Appreciation" and "Public School Music" -- a class for elementary school majors.

Mrs. Baker returns to the MCC campus having worked with former MCC Music Instructor Richard Driml in the mid 1980s when she taught choir, swing choir, sight singing, ear training as well as private lessons for piano and voice.

She taught piano and voice for four years at York College and has been involved in vocal music and giving private vocal lessons for a number of years. She attended Harding University in Searcy, Ark, and did graduate work at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and the University of Nebraska-Kearney, where she received her master's degree. She also taught elementary in Danbury from 1999-2004.

She has been involved in several musicals staged by the Southwest Nebraska Community Theatre Association including "Music Man," "Oklahoma," and "Fiddler on The Roof." In addition she continues to give private voice and piano lessons.

"I'm excited about this renewed focus on music at MCC, "Baker said.

"Then I think the goal is to gradually add more each semester. When the remodeling is complete in Tipton Hall, we'd like to put together small group instrumental ensembles and maybe be more visible with jazz band-type activities," she said.

However some students just can't wait. Even though there isn't a band yet, several students have requested band training this semester so Baker said she is putting a small group ensemble together and encourages any student with interest to contact her.

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