Hernando Middle School girls choir

Members of the 59-voice Hernando Middle School Girls’ Choir rehearse for their upcoming performance before the American Choral Directors Association National Conference in Kansas City, Mo.

The girls’ choir of Hernando Middle School (HMS) will be performing before a very special audience late next month when they take the stage in Kansas City, Mo.

The 59 members of the group will sing for about 14,000 of the nation’s top choir leaders as part of the 2019 National Conference of the American Choral Directors Association.

The association represents about 22,000 music directors with the mission of promoting vocal music excellence.

Every odd-numbered year a national conference is held and this year’s conference, from Feb. 27-March 2, will take place at Helzberg Hall and the Muriel Kauffman Theatre of the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts.

“They will be some of the best ears in the world,” said HMS Choral Director Reese Norris about the audiences for the two performances the girls will do. “They will be the most appreciative audience because they will understand every single nuance that’s often lost on your general audience.”

For the Hernando girls’ choir, their selection came as a result of an exhaustive process and after several attempts at being invited to come, said Norris.

“You submit extensive paperwork and three years worth of recordings,” Norris said. “I’ve submitted and sent in auditions three times previous to this year and had been rejected every year. It is just a tough gig to get into. No middle school from Mississippi has ever been there before.”

Last spring, Norris decided to submit an audition again, providing last year’s and the two years’ previous performances, believing he had a greater chance of being accepted this year than ever before.

“Last May I sent in a recording from last year’s choir and the two years before that,” Norris explained. “They take them, number them and with a double-blind panel of experts listen to them all. It started out with 225 recordings and they were to choose 25 from all walks of life.”

Parents and the public will be able to hear their performance on Valentine’s Day at Hernando United Methodist Church ahead of their departure to Kansas City on Feb. 28.

Norris said the members took care of raising their own expenses.

“They paid their trips off at the beginning of school and are far as auxiliary costs for the conference programs, that money came from the school’s choir account,” Norris said.

The singers have been hard at work perfecting their 25-minute program that will be sung twice the same day, once in each venue of the Kauffman Center.

Norris feels the students are become more aware of the historic appearance they will make for music in DeSoto County and in Mississippi as their trip approaches.

“Since there’s so much build up to it and now that we’re getting more outside public attention I do sense a deeper sense of understanding,” he said. “They’re working hard and with a higher sense of focus than you might expect from an average year basis.”

Bob Bakken is Staff Writer for the DeSoto Times-Tribune.

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