Members of the Truman High School concert choir have and will continue to benefit from director Kim Carson's college connections.
The Truman choir will be among several school choirs joining the Grammy Award-winning Kansas City Chorale for its “Chorale Family Christmas” concert Saturday at St. Michael the Archangel Church in Overland Park, Kansas, and in the past few weeks they've had some rehearsals led by Chorale director Charles Bruffy.
Even bigger, though, the group has started to plan its trip for next May to sing at famous Carnegie Hall in New York City.
“It's an exciting time for all of us,” junior choir member Blake Savidge said. “The goal right now is fund raise and coordinate that so we can experience it.”
Saturday's 1 p.m. concert has been an annual event for several years now for the KC Chorale. Bruffy says he first invites choirs directed by members of the Chorale – among those will be freshmen from the Blue Springs School District led by Devin Ceperley. The Young MAIsters from Music & Arts Institute with Phillip Enloe also are scheduled to join.
Carson and the Truman choir drew an invitation last March after a concert at Missouri Western State University, where Bruffy and Carson were guest alumni conductors in a celebration for the recently retired choral director there.
“I told her I enjoyed her work and said if she ever wanted me to come and work with the high school kids, I'd be happy to,” said Bruffy, who divides his time between Kansas City and Phoenix, where he conducts the Phoenix Chorale.
“So many times high school kids don't have the opportunity to sing with other choirs and it's not in a competition setting,” he said. “It's nice to have an event of sharing, exposing all of the choirs' talents.”
“He ended up coming (for rehearsal) one day,” Carson said, “and it was awesome to have him and his expertise. He also invited us to this concert. This is just fulfilling the invitation from last spring. He's been in two or three times since then, loves working with the kids when he's in town.
“I think they enjoy working with him because he doesn't pull any punches. That's kind of the way I do things, but he can be even more edgy. He shares his heart, and that's what I want them to do, is sing from their heart – that they're not just notes on the page, and you make music that's not sterile and has that meat.”
Savidge acknowledged that while Truman's 52-member choir works at a high level, the Bruffy standard came seem even higher.
“We didn't know what to expect,” he said. “We just all came with the mentality to work hard. There's always some kind of nerves when it's something new, but there was more excitement than nerves.”
Bruffy said he's fortunate his work with the Chorale and the Kansas City Symphony Chorus allows him to have a “stratosphere of opportunity” with choral music, and he enjoys some of those lofty standards into the high school classroom.
“The most fun part for me is bringing that type of potential and expectation to the young singers,” he said. “After the teacher says the same thing a dozen times, when a new face says it, it makes sense or maybe this time they believe it. All together, we can exceed what's possible.”
At Saturday's concert, each school group will perform two or three songs before everybody joins with the Chorale for a variety of traditional Christmas carols.
Truman's Carnegie Hall invitation came courtesy of Carson's teacher at Michigan State while she was working on her master's degree, which she finished in 2015. The teacher would be conducting for a concert and was inviting certain alumni to bring their choirs.
“He had been here the previous year (to observe) and was really impressed with how well the kids were making music and reading hard literature,” Carson.
Due to a change in the groups attending, Carson's former teacher won't be conducting for the scheduled concert on Memorial Day weekend, but Truman will have its own short concert at Carnegie Hall before singing with the large overall group accompanied New England Symphonic Ensemble, Carson said.
She's got several pieces picked out already.
“Most of them are traditional choral literature that will be interesting to everybody,” she said, “a standard choral program that comes from a variety of cultures.”