Pratt choir honored with invitation to sing at Carnegie Hall in New York

Jennifer Stultz
Pratt Tribune
Members of the Pratt High School 2021 Chamber Choir sing for the USD 382 Board of Education last Monday as part of their announcement that PHS has been selected to take part in a Carnegie Hall Choirs of American festival in March 2022.

Something special has happened that could have a profound impact on members of the Pratt High School Chamber Choir, which is under the direction of instructor Brandon Wade. Last week, they were notified of a recommendation and selection to sing in the March 2022 National Festival Chorus at Carnegie Hall in New York, and event that will be directed by Dr. Julie Yu of Kansas State University.

Wade said that never before has a choir from Pratt attained such an honor and the reality of the selection is still sinking in for choir students and their director as they begin fundraising preparations for the occassion.

"The students and I are really excited about this," said Wade. "We will have a dessert auction at our annual pops concert on May 12 to begin to make this a reality."

A special connection between Dr. Yu and the Pratt choir made this opportunity to stretch outside the usual limits of high school choir participation possible for 2021 and 2022 members of the Pratt Chamber Choir.

"I've had a chance to work with Brandon Wade and the Pratt High School choirs at state KMEA concerts several times and they were always very good," Dr. Yu said. "Then I have also had a few Pratt grads here at K-State and they are always such good artists, dedicated workers, eager to learn - it was a no-brainer for me to invite them to be in the National Festival Chorus."

Dr. Yu said that she has directed four national and international choirs at Carnegir Hall in years past and looks forward to working with the 300-member cast she is in charge of choosing for the March 2022 event.

"Carnegie Hall is one of the finest venues in the world to perform," she said. "The most important part of this whole experience is for these high school students to find themselves surrounded by like-minded individuals and to see the world of music in a greater contest. It helps get them out of their bubble to see that the world is small and we are all really not so different. It is a true cultural exchange."

Dr. Yu said Pratt students would be joined by singers from Texas, Missouri and Virginia, and would have plenty of time to get to know each other as well as explore New York City.

"We will have them there for a three-day residency," Dr. Yu said. "There will be rehearsals for two days, and then a performance on the third day. In between, there is time to see the sights, take in a Broadway show. It's all in an environment that really stirs the juices, helps see the bigger picture."

Wade's role will be to prepare his Pratt students for their experience and then, while there to enjoy connecting with other instructors as well as keeping an eye on his charges.

"I won't actually get to conduct them there," Wade said. "My job is to get them ready and then go along to observe."

He may also be called on to facilitate some of the practice sessions an rehearsals in New York, according to Dr. Yu.

"This whole thing will be like a vaccination shot for the spirit," Dr. Yu said. "It will be a lot of fun.

Dr. Julie Yu is Co-Director of Choral Studies at Kansas State University and part of a team that oversees choral ensembles and teaches undergraduate and graduate conducting. She holds a Bachelor of Music degree in music education from the University of Central Oklahoma, Master of Music degree in choral conducting from Oklahoma State University, and the Doctorate of Musical Arts degree in choral conducting from the University of North Texas. She has given presentations and her choirs have performed for conferences of the Kansas Music Educators Association, and is the Southwest American Choral Directors Association President and a 2018 ACDA-ICEP Conducting Fellow (to Kenya).

Wade said that Pratt students from the 2021 choir would be given the opportunity to be part of the Carnegie Hall festival, along with the 2020 students.

"Our fundraising that we will be doing from now until then will be offering services to our community," he said. "We are not going to just be asking for support money. We will be giving a dinner theater and providing other benefits to those who wish to help us on our mission to get to New York next year. It's going to be a lot of fun."