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The Choir School’s 25th Season creates an opportunity to gather stories that define the impact of a rigorous arts education program whose door is open to everyone. Our mission is simple: to strengthen lives through excellent, rigorous choral music education and outstanding performance. Our commitment is strong: to provide life changing experiences and opportunities to young people from every walk of life.


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[av_toggle title=’25 Lives: Lelyand Cathey’ tags=”]

As a Cadet and Officer Candidate at The United States Air Force Academy, Lelyand Cathey knows a lot about discipline, rigor, and hard work. These are qualities he has always valued, even as a young person growing up in Charlotte. He was surprised, however, to find their value not only in physical strength and academics, but in music as well. He joined The Choir School in 2012.
“In the beginning, singing was definitely out of my comfort zone. Succeeding as a chorister taught me what is possible when you get out of that zone. My experience at The Choir School helped me think through the merits of something else that felt uncomfortable at first – becoming an officer in the Air Force.”
When Lelyand finally achieved his dream of attending The Air Force Academy, he found himself with very limited time outside of classes and training. He certainly didn’t think singing would have a place in his life – until he auditioned for the academy’s renowned mens a cappella group In The Stairwell. “Turns out, this is the greatest group of guys I’ve ever met,” he says. “It’s amazing how music brings people together.”

[av_toggle title=’25 Lives: Kelsey Harrison’ tags=” av_uid=’av-3j73og’]

As a professional mezzo-soprano, Kelsey Harrison has traveled the world to study and perform. That path began at The Choir School, and a trip to England as a member of the Girls Tour Choir. Kelsey joined the choir with her best friend Danielle Kunkleman in 2001, when they were two eleven-year-old girls who loved to sing together at Providence Presbyterian Church. She stayed all the way through high school, and went on to earn a B.M. in Vocal performance at the University of South Carolina and an M.M. in Vocal and Opera Studies at The New England Conservatory of Music. She also studied at Staatstheater in Darmstadt, Germany.

Kelsey currently lives in Charlotte, and recently made her Jordan Hall debut as the mezzo-soprano soloist in Haydn’s Lord Nelson Mass. Upcoming performances include Handel’s Messiah with the Winston-Salem Symphony, and the 2018 – 2019 season with Opera Carolina. She is an active and generous alumna of The Choir School, and frequently returns as a guest artist and soloist.
[av_toggle title=’25 Lives: Nicole Ramsey’ tags=” av_uid=’av-25l1u8′]

When an unexpected leave of absence left 100 choral students without a teacher the day they were scheduled to leave for Disney, Nicole Ramsey was ready to step in. Never mind that she was still a student teacher, not yet finished with her undergraduate degree. Nicole grew up at The Choir School, so leading choristers through a successful tour was something she had been preparing to do since she was a young child. Her success as a conductor and tour coordinator on the Disney trip led to an expedited student teaching schedule that allowed her to take over as choral teacher for the program. In fall of 2014, she took a position teaching at Page High School, where she taught beginning choral students, an advanced women’s ensemble, an advanced mixed ensemble, musical theatre, and AP music theory.

Nicole’s introduction to The Choir School was in the fall of 2001 when she joined the Girls Town Choir. She remained a chorister for nine years, graduating from the MasterSingers in 2010. The skills and experiences she accumulated as a chorister taught her musicianship, and so much more.

Nicole Ramsey completed her M.M. in Music Education this August. She is currently pursuing a PhD in Music Education at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, where she holds a Graduate Assistantship. She teaches in the university’s collegiate undergraduate music education program.
[av_toggle title=’25 Lives: Nyi Nyi Myin’ tags=” av_uid=’av-2373pc’]
When he entered a recent international carol competition, Nyi Nyi Myin didn’t expect to be recognized. He just wanted to “see if maybe composition is another form of music I should look into.” Needless to say, when his arrangement of “Dormi Jesu” earned second place in the Scottish competition he was surprised, but that accomplishment is just one of many for this talented Choir School alumnus, who has gone on to study Vocal Music Education at Wingate University.

After Nyi Nyi and his family immigrated from their home in Burma to Charlotte, The Choir School became a new kind of home for him—a tight-knit community of diverse young people brought together by their common talent. Choir School choristers come from many backgrounds, schools, neighborhoods, and traditions. Together, they prove again and again that the arts are a powerful tool for tearing down cultural barriers and building perspective, tolerance, and respect.
[av_toggle title=’25 Lives: Emily Mason’ tags=” av_uid=’av-jk62b4′]
As a six-year-old girl, Emily Mason sang all the time. In the grocery store. In the hallways of her elementary school. And always, at home. And because her small Catholic school had no music program, her mom was thrilled to come across a poster on a bulletin board announcing auditions at The Choir School. The resulting audition was the beginning of 12 seasons as a chorister. Along the way, she learned that talent is only one component of success – and that a willingness to do hard work and stay with it makes all difference. “That’s true in music,” she says, “but also in life.”

Emily graduated from Northwest School of the Arts in 2013, and went on to earn a degree in Vocal Performance from the University of South Carolina, where she is now working toward her Master’s degree in Music Education.

[av_toggle title=’25 Lives: Courtney Love’ tags=” av_uid=’av-62gnk’]
Courtney Love began his studies as a boy chorister when he was eight years old – just as The Choir School was beginning to build its own legacy. When his voice began to change, and in the years before the MasterSingers ensemble was formed, he moved on to private study, and began to compete in vocal performance competitions. Courtney has gone on to perform professionally all over the world. His most recent role was in Tokyo, Japan where he was the featured vocalist in the hit Disney jazz show Big Band Beat. He played the role of “Simba” in the Hong Kong production of Disney’s The Lion King, and has also appeared in Smokey Joe’s Cafe, Rent, Hairspray, Chicago, and All Shook Up. He has performed on national tour with The Wedding Singer, and can be heard singing the role of “Sebastian” on the Stage Star Records release of Broadway’s The Little Mermaid.

[av_toggle title=’25 Lives: David Filipczak’ tags=” av_uid=’av-fnoeow’]
David Filipczak was in the second grade when he first auditioned to join the Boys Choir of The Choir School. His experiences as a chorister became a defining characteristic of his childhood, and the relationships and skills he cultivated became fundamental to his success as an adult. David graduated in 2008, and went on to study International Business, Finance, and Management at The University of South Carolina and the Chinese University of Hong Kong. Among the many skills he mastered as a chorister, language skills proved to be especially invaluable. “If you can control pitch, like choristers learn to do, you’ve already mastered one of the most challenging aspects of learning a tonal language.” Now fluent in both Chinese and French, David manages complex financial relationships with corporate clients all over the world.

[av_toggle title=’25 Lives: Casey Rimland Cohen’ tags=” av_uid=’av-e1xd0g’]
As a medical student, memorization is a very large part of Casey Rimland Cohen’s life. She credits her years as a chorister with preparing her to meet that challenge, and many others as well as she works to complete a rigorous dual program that will lead to both MD and PhD degrees. Casey spent almost a decade at The Choir School after joining the Girls Choir in 1999 when she was just nine years old. She continued as a chorister through high school, growing each year in confidence as a musician and also as team member, a leader, and a friend. Today she is a Gates Cambridge Scholar and studies medicine at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. With a focus on stem cell biology, her course of study has included conducting research at Cambridge University and the National Institute of Health. She will complete her degrees in 2020.

[av_toggle title=’25 Lives: Noah Henthorn’ tags=” av_uid=’av-o13j4g’]
On an evening in March, 2015, Noah Henthorn demonstrated the very meaning of excellence as he walked onto the stage at the Blumenthal Performing Arts Center, soloist for that evening’s performance of Leonard Bernstein’s “Chichester Psalms.” He shared the stage with hundreds of professional adult musicians, including the Oratorio Singers of Charlotte and the members of the Charlotte Symphony Orchestra, under the direction of their world-renowned Music Director Christopher Warren-Green. Noah’s performance was spectacular, and he brought the audience to their feet. On that evening in 2015, Noah was only 9 years old.

The rigor of The Choir School program prepares even young choristers for extraordinary performance opportunities. Choir School choristers are often invited to sing with the region’s finest professional companies, including The Charlotte Symphony and Opera Carolina, and our MasterSingers Ensemble serves once every four years as Choir in Residence at a British Cathedral. Noah Henthorn was recruited in 2016 by the renowned St. Thomas Choir School, where he now studies and serves as chorister for St. Thomas Church, Fifth Avenue.
[av_toggle title=’25 Lives: Max Singleton’ tags=” av_uid=’av-5l8zwg’]

Max Singleton first joined The Boys Choir of The Choir School when he was six years old.Today he studies Performance, specializing in Voice, at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, where he has the high distinction of being a 2015 – 2016 Minerva Scholar of the College of Visual and Performing Arts.

“My years at The Choir School gave me musical knowledge, professionalism, and other

skills that have definitely given me an edge. They also gave me friends that are definitely a permanent part of my life. I don’t always know when or where our paths will cross again, but I know they will and I’m always glad.”

Max lives in Greensboro where, among many activities, he leads the UNCG Spartones, a men’s a cappella group.
[av_toggle title=’25 Lives: Erik Johnson’ tags=” av_uid=’av-h3728′]

Erik Johnson goes out into the world every day ready to do things the right way. In his work with Wells Fargo, as a musician, and as a family member, doing things the right way has always been a big point of interest and pride.

“Learning to do things the right way at every step is a big part of what I learned at The Choir School,” he recalls. “As a chorister, I learned to like the process as much as I like the end result. “
Erik was a founding member of the original Boys Choir at St. Peter’s and has helped sustain and nurture the program throughout his life. After earning degrees in Physics and Math from the North Carolina State University, where he was a Park Scholar, he returned to Charlotte and became an adult mentor for the MasterSingers. Also a talented instrumentalist, Erik earned a minor in viola performance during his years at NC State, and performs with the Salisbury Symphony.

[av_toggle title=’25 Lives: Margaret Carpenter Haigh ‘ tags=” av_uid=’av-ma60hc’]
As a young girl Margaret Carpenter Haigh studied cello, but a well-placed Choir School flyer led to an audition for the newly formed vocal ensemble that would become the MasterSingers of The Choir School. That ensemble became a turning point in Margaret’s life, introducing her to life-long friends, creating the opportunity to travel and perform within the United States and in England, and opening a whole new realm of possibilities as a musician. Margaret went on to be an Ethel Virginia Merit Scholar at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, and holds the M.Mus in Choral Studies from the University of Cambridge, where she was a Gates Cambridge Scholar.  She has recently been awarded the Doctor of Musical Arts in Historical Performance Practice from Case Western Reserve University.

[av_toggle title=’25 Lives: Geoff Yost’ tags=” av_uid=’av-2ek9n4′]

Attention to detail. The ability to be focused in the moment. Poise in front of strangers. These are some of the many qualities Geoff Yost mentions when he describes what he learned as a chorister at The Choir School. “And so many practical skills too,” he’s quick to say. “How to tie a tie. How to write a thank you note. The list goes on and on.”
“I remember knowing as a kid that we were being challenged to be exceptional. It wasn’t just about how we performed when we were in front of an audience. It was how we lived our lives in preparation for that moment. That’s the discipline of being a chorister.”
Geoff joined the Boys Tour Choir when he was in the fifth grade and was a chorister through high school. He graduated as a MasterSinger in 2008. Today he is a brand and communications strategy consultant in Charleston, South Carolina. He is also an active Choir School champion, serving as a volunteer leader and guiding brand and design for the school.


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