Singers gain professional experience through collaborative performance

North Allegheny School District  |  Posted on

Dr. James Gourlay conducts the River City Brass and Carson Select on a collaborative selection.

The winter concert season is a busy one at Carson Middle School: over 90% of the building population participates in a music performance ensemble. For years, music students have had the opportunity to join the Chamber Singers and Carson Chorale, auditioned select groups that rehearse every Tuesday morning from 7-8 a.m. These students must commit to attending weekly before-school rehearsals, performing in additional concerts and events, and maintaining high academic, social and musical standards within the building.

From these two ensembles has grown the Carson Select, a group of the “best of the best” singers in grades 6-8. Led by Jamie Davis and David Woten, Carson Select recently completed its fifth annual performance with one of the nation’s last remaining professional brass ensembles, the River City Brass. As the only middle-level ensemble invited to sing with the band, students are expected to not only learn additional advanced repertoire for this event, but are also placed in a demanding professional environment. They are asked to be “performance-ready” in only one rehearsal with the band’s conductor, Dr. James Gourlay. Having never before seen or practiced with the sixty-plus adult members of the band, Carson Select combines with River City Brass for several numbers throughout their holiday concert. Gourlay writes special arrangements tailored especially for Carson Select and the band to perform together, and the ticketed performance sells out every year.

Perhaps the greatest challenge of this event is that it occurs just one day after the students’ annual school chorus concert. The members of Carson Select are well-rounded, dedicated leaders in the musical, academic and social arenas. They willingly exceed the expectations and visions of Davis and Woten. Because of their passion, talent and dedication, they receive once-in-a-lifetime opportunities such as this one!