Lansing ACDA Honor Choir MembersStanding Left to Right: Izzy Hafner, Alina Loginov, Kirida Irving, Erin Dhameeth, Maya Montfort-Balfour, Dominick Ronsvalle, Elizabeth Alo; Kneeling Left to Right: Izzy Gustafson, Anna Hibbard; At Right: Ariella Lindsley-Schutz, Max Austin

11 Lansing students will sing in the American Choral Directors Association (ACDA) Honor Choir next Spring.  The students will travel to Pittsburgh to be part of two of four March 10th honor choir performances at next year's ACDA Eastern Division Conference.  Lansing Middle School music teacher Lucas Hibbard says 11 is a lot of students to be accepted from one school.

"They represent the school, which is awesome," he says.  "Especially the fact that we have 11 kids involved.  In most cases a school will have one or two or three kids accepted.  The fewest I've taken was four, and the most was 13.   I love doing it."

Divisional honor choirs perform in even years, and national honor choirs in odd years.  Hibbard says he usually doesn't  enter students in the national competition unless it is being held nearby, because the cost is prohibitive.  But he has brought Lansing students to participate in the regional concert every other year year since 2010 plus a group in 2004.

Students must audition on a recording that is submitted online.  The audition has three parts: vocal exercises, 'America' (My Country 'Tis Of Thee) without accompaniment, and a one-minute solo that demonstrates the singer's tone quality.  The solo may be accompanied, and Hibbard often accompanies his singers on piano for this part.

Five Lansing 5th graders and four 6th graders made it into the Elementary Honor Choir.  One 7th and one 9th grader will sing in the Junior High Honor Choir.  Hibbard notes there is a high school division, but the conference conflicts with this year's High School musical ('The Sound of Music').

"I like the ability of the kids to hear themselves in a choir of highly selected students that really want to sing," he says.  "The first time they walk into a rehearsal their eyes open up.  To hear 110 kids around them who are that high quality of singers is an eye opening event for them  It brings a lot of joy to me to be able to have them be able to have that experience, because it's a once in a lifetime experience for most kids."

Being accepted into an honor choir isn't easy, with students competing throughout the eastern region that includes Connecticut, Delaware,  Maine, Maryland/DC, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and Vermont.  But once a singer makes it into an honor choir the hard work begins.  Fund raising to pay for the trip begins around now, and when the music -- including recordings of each piece and the student's part in it -- arrives in November the singers begin a weekly regimen of rehearsals to prepare for... rehearsals.

"I will start meeting with the kids once a week to rehearse the music," Hibbard explains.  "When we get to the event I go to conference events and the kids are rehearsing, basically every waking hour for the three or four days we're there.  They will test them on the music to make sure they know it really well, and they begin rehearsals."

They arrive on a Wednesday, and begin rehearsing that evening.  They are first tested on their knowledge of the music - only singers that are prepared are permitted to perform.  Rehearsals continue Thursday, Friday and Saturday morning in preparation for the Saturday afternoon concerts.

The repertoire includes established choral music plus a new piece that is commissioned for the concert.

"So they're learning a piece that has never been performed, that they're the first to perform," Hibbard says.  "The composer is there to meet with them, to talk to them and work with them on the song.  That's not an experience you usually get."

After the conference video and audio recordings are available for purchase, a keepsake of a unique experience that has helped encourage some of his students to continue their music studies.

"I love going to the conference, but this is the best part of it," Hibbard says.  "As a teacher there are lots of different events for me to go to, and I do go to them.  But I spend a lot of time in the rehearsals watching the kids and watching the conductor, and learning from the conductor.  I love having the kids be able to have this opportunity."