Since 1993, the Winston-Salem Youth Chorus (WSYC) has positively impacted the lives of hundreds of children and youth through music education and performance experiences. Over the years, the chorus has grown in its membership and in its outreach to the community and internationally. A little over a year ago, Dr. Sonja Sepulveda became the Artistic Director, after the founder of the chorus, Barbara C. Beattie, retired. Dr. Sepulveda and members of the Touring Chorus, Young Men’s and Young Women’s Ensembles, recently traveled to Vienna, Austria, for the Vienna Music Festival, adding another accomplishment to the group and giving the participants many memories to cherish.
Vienna, Austria…A Historical City of Music
The purpose of the Vienna Music Festival is to highlight top-quality choirs from America, conducted by directors of choral excellence, and to allow them to experience great choral music in one of the most important historical cities of music in the world. This trip also helps the students make connections with top musicians from orchestras and choirs from both America and Austria.
“The trip was open to the members of the Touring Chorus, which is the auditioned choir of 4th-grade to 8th-grade and the high school auditioned choir of Young Men and Young Women. We also added the Winston-Salem Chorale, which was adult family members of the singers who wanted to sing and had proven choral experience. We had 31 people on the trip, ranging in age from 10–18 from the WSYC, and including parents and grandparents of the singers who went as chaperones and as singers,” said Dr. Sepulveda. For chorus members, Hannah Hair, Carmen Hardy and Tyler Zickmund, the trip was one of a lifetime!
For Hannah Hair, a homeschooled, rising 10th-grader from Winston-Salem, NC, music and singing fill her with joy, and the trip to Vienna was “the trip of a lifetime.” “This was my first international trip with the WSYC; all of the other traveling opportunities I have participated in have been local. The experience in Vienna meant more to me than I can express in words. I was, and am still, grateful for every moment spent in that magical place. The finest moment for me was our concert in St. Peter’s Church. It was the most beautiful concert I’ve had the privilege of singing in…I was awestruck by the beauty of it all,” Hannah commented.
The trip to the Vienna Music Festival was the third one for Carmen Hardy, a native of Winston-Salem, NC, and a rising junior at Reagan High School. “I have been in the WSYC for almost eight years, and this is my third trip, including one to Virginia and New Orleans. The trip to Vienna was absolutely incredible, more than anything I expected. Getting to sing in a different country at a young age changes you. It was amazing to look around at the beautiful Schubert Church, with such talented singers and wonderful directors that came together in just a few days to pull off an awesome concert, and realize you are part of it,” recalled Carmen.
After finishing the 5th grade, Tyler was looking for “something more,” when he and his parents found the WSYC, and it was a perfect fit for Tyler. “I sang for three years in the Touring Chorus, then took two years off and came back this year to sing with the Young Men’s Ensemble. I will be a junior this coming year at Davie High School in Mocksville, NC, and the chorus has given me the opportunity to meet so many awesome and talented people that I wouldn’t be the same without having that experience. Our time in Vienna was so much more than I could have ever expected, and I wouldn’t trade the world for it. The combination of great music, great people and a great city was truly magical,” Tyler stated.
“Singing is for Life”
For Dr. Sepulveda, seeing the students experience a city that means so much to her and the history of music was a great reward to her as the Director. “A performing tour of Europe really bonds a group together. It is an opportunity for shared experiences, musical and spiritual growth, learning, exploring, fun and fellowship. It was indeed an experience of a lifetime for these students of diverse backgrounds and ages. The WSYC represents all that is good and best in American young people and from this area of our country. The Vienna Music Festival allowed the singers to learn from more mature musicians, since they were the only youth chorus among the 200 adult singers in a beautiful, but historical environment, and to realize that singing is indeed for life, and does change a village,” Dr. Sepulveda said.
For more information on the Winston-Salem Youth Chorus, visit www.wsyouthchorus.org or call 336-703-0001.