Choir students at Pojoaque Valley High School have earned the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to perform next fall at the famed Carnegie Hall in New York City.
The students were selected along with other high school choirs around the country to sing at the National Memorial Concert, which annually remembers the thousands of lives lost in the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
For Isabel Becker-Hudson, who teaches choir at the High School, having her students selected for this opportunity is the culmination of nearly two decades spent teaching the youth of Pojoaque the art of singing.
“This is an experience they may never have again and they’ll probably remember it for the rest of their lives,” she said.
She received a letter from concert organizers in November, inviting her students to apply for the program.
The intensive application process included all the students, around 40 in total, making a brand new recording to send to the judges. Becker-Hudson said the class was nervous to hear back from them.
“We waited and we waited for the acceptance letter,” she said.
That hopeful energy came to a head when they got a letter a while later, informing them they would be performing in New York City.
“When I got it, (the students) were in tears,” Becker-Hudson said. “They were so excited.”
Now that they have been accepted, though, the real work begins. Becker-Hudson said she needs to teach the students four to five new pieces before the concert, which can be difficult since full rehearsals are rare for the program, which is split into four different classes.
She said there is more to a well-performed piece than students simply hitting their marks.
“Singing correct notes and rhythms is nice, but it doesn’t make for beautiful music,” she said.
Another, perhaps larger challenge for the program is raising enough funds for every student to go.
While the concert provides the Manhattan hotel rooms for the students to stay in, costs for airplane tickets and meals are all on the students and their families.
Becker-Hudson said they will probably need to raise $50,000 to pay for all the expenses.
“We’re going to have to work really hard to fundraise,” she said.
The class has already sold chocolates and coffee, and is planning on hosting a steak dinner later in the month, although it may not be enough.
“Some of these kids will pay out of pocket, but I would rather keep that to a minimum,” Becker-Hudson said.
A GoFund me page has been set up for the choir program, with a goal of $50,000 to get the students to New York City.
Becker-Hudson said if students cannot afford to attend, they may never again have the opportunity to go on a trip like this.
“This is not a wealthy community and some of these kids have never been out of the state,” she said. “Maybe Albuquerque is as far as they’ve gone.”
While the fundraising gets underway, the choir students will continue rehearsing, eagerly anticipating a performance in a historic venue.
Becker-Hudson, who has been a teacher for close to 40 years, said she considered retiring a couple years ago, but opted against it.
“I’m glad I did, because if I had this wouldn’t have been possible for these kids,” she said.
Those looking to support the choir can either donate to the GoFund me page or go to the High School to donate directly to the choir.