By Deja Allen
Three Florida A&M University (FAMU) Concert Choir students have been selected to showcase their talents as members of the honors choir during the 2017 Young Adult Honors Performance Series at the renowned Carnegie Hall in New York City.
Their February 5 performance will mark a significant milestone as they were chosen from a pool of students from across 45 states in the U.S. and two provinces in Canada. Maiya Stevenson, Akeisha Mandela, and Kyrik Gaines will perform before thousands on the world-renowned Ronald O. Perelman Stage.
Their accomplishment reflects the world-class training they’ve received under FAMU’s acclaimed choral program, which has taken its students to global stages including Spain and Africa. Students in the award-winning program have also performed with Grammy winners such as Phil Driscoll, Richard Smallwood, and the amazing Three Mo’ Tenors.
“I am excited about the opportunity to perform at this historic concert venue,” said Gaines, who is a voice student of FAMU professor Marcus Rhodes. “Performing at Carnegie Hall will help to highlight the diverse, talented musical organizations and groups that our university has to offer.”
The Young Adult Honors Series at Carnegie Hall assembles some of the most talented college-aged and young adult vocalists in the world to experience the thrill of working with master conductors and performing in one of the most prominent concert halls.
Rhodes, along with FAMU Concert Choir Director Mark Butler, DMA, nominated the three students for the opportunity to perform in the honors choir.
“I was delighted to nominate them,” said Butler. “Getting these talented students to Carnegie Hall will allow our university and choral division to be recognized as having one of the finest choral and vocal programs in the nation.”
Rhodes agrees that this opportunity will shine a positive light on FAMU’s ability to train top-notch singers.
“It is exciting that this exposure can increase interest in the music program while motivating our students to continue to strive to be their best,” Rhodes said.
Mandela, a senior music performance student, sees this moment as an inspirational learning opportunity that will be beneficial for her and her classmates.
“This opportunity means there are more doors opening. It also means that as long as I apply myself, there are no goals too big for me,” Mandela said. “I’m very excited to partake in such an experience and to bring back as much knowledge as I can for my classmates and friends that are also pursuing classical music.”
Mandela expressed gratitude for the guidance of Dr. Butler and the meticulous training she received through her vocal coach, FAMU professor Alethea Kilgore, DM.
“It gives me great joy to see Akeisha excel in the manner that she has,” Kilgore said, noting that Mandela will also be featured in several more competitions this year. “We will be working extensively to polish her vocal instrument. This opportunity will inspire her to go even further with her performance ability.”
Stevenson, a fourth-year music performance student, who trains with Butler, also has a lot to prepare for in the near future. She recently won an audition to perform a leading role in Mozart’s Opera “Don Giovanni” this summer in Bulgaria, located in southeastern Europe.
Butler said the honors performance has special meaning to the choral department. It marks the fifth invitation members of the FAMU Concert Choir have received to perform at Carnegie Hall, but it’s the first time they were able to attend due to budgetary constraints.
The students and their professors are focused on ensuring that they leave a lasting impression.
“Preparation for the big day is the primary focus,” Butler said. “All three students are working diligently to perfect their material before they make their mark in Midtown Manhattan on Sunday.”
Did You Know?
In March 2015, FAMU’s Wind Symphony became the first classical symphony ensemble from a historically Black college or university (HBCU) to perform at Carnegie Hall. Additionally, FAMU Department of Music professor and celebrated trumpet player Longineu Parsons performed at Carnegie Hall alongside Broadway’s elite in June 2014, where he played a tribute to legend Louis Armstrong. It was his second performance there, with his first coming in 1993 in an appearance during a tribute to the Nicholas Brothers.