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Two teens sing their way to famous concert venue

They perform in a 39-member choir at Carnegie Hall.

By JOY DAVIS-PLATT

© St. Petersburg Times, published March 29, 2000


Practice, practice, practice took Jessica Parker to Carnegie Hall, but it also wore out her vocal cords.

Jessica and a Hernando High School classmate, Katie Heinecke, are part of an all-girls choral group that performed in New York's most prestigious venue over the weekend.

La Petite Choeur, a 39-member choir for girls ages 13 to 18, performed as a featured choir at the 2000 Florida Youth Chorale.

On Tuesday, Jessica proudly wore her souvenir T-shirt that proclaims: "Carnegie Hall. If you haven't played it, you haven't made it."

"In a group like this, everyone is working toward a common goal," said the 17-year-old soprano, her voice barely a whisper after the weekend's extended rehearsal schedule. "When you reach a goal like this, it's a very good feeling."

During their trip, the girls shopped at Macy's, saw Broadway's Phantom of the Opera and visited the Metropolitan Museum of Art. But nothing they saw compared with the beauty of Carnegie Hall's Isaac Stern Auditorium.

"I felt like I was in a dream," said 15-year-old Katie, who remembers singing from the alto section up to four rows of balcony boxes. "The stage is all trimmed in gold, and I just imagined all the famous people who had been there."

For Jessica, who joined La Petite Choeur last year, the experience of performing on the gilded stage was more understated.

"It's very warm and welcoming," she said, impressed by the honey-colored wood of the stage floor, "not intimidating like you might think."

Founded in 1994, La Petite Choeur is a division of Gulf Coast Youth Choirs of Tampa, a non-profit community arts organization. Members must audition each year for the elite group.

The group performed three numbers, including Allen Koepke's Dance on My Heart, which tells the story of a woman's choice among three suitors.

"I like that number because we get to do a bit of acting," said Katie, tossing her long, dark hair. "It's different than a lot of the things we do."

While in New York, the group rehearsed five hours each day as part of a 400-voice mass choir made up of male and female singers from all over the United States.

"The sound of all those voices was unbelievable," said Katie's mother, Charlene, who took her family along on the trip. "We wouldn't have missed seeing her sing at Carnegie Hall for the world."

Though she already plays piano and French horn, Katie said, she joined the choir this year because singing is a more immediate form of expression. She is considering a career as a musical therapist.

"It's like I have music inside of me, and singing is the best way to get it out," she said. "Music has the power to brighten people."

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