Members of the Lakeland High School chorus. | Kimberly C. Moore, LkdlNow

All the practice paid off for the Lakeland High School Honors Chorus.

In August, the chorus submitted a video with several songs as an audition to perform at the world-famous Carnegie Hall in New York City.  The 30-member chorus recently found out they won a coveted spot to perform during the National Youth Festival in April 2023.

And now comes the hard part: They need to raise $2,000 per student – $60,000 in all – to make the trip to the Big Apple.

“We took that chance and just threw that audition out there to see if we could get into that festival,” said Regina Register, LHS chorus director. “They’re trying to fundraise and make a way. We’re singing at places and caroling different places and trying to fundraise by selling chocolate and holding car washes and all kinds of stuff so that they can fundraise their way to go.”

The cost for the five-day trip includes the flight, security on the floor of the Hyatt Hotel in Manhattan, coordinators at all times, shuttle buses for the students and their five chaperones, and two sightseeing tours of the city

“So there’s a lot of things in the package that I felt like was important, with a lot of us not having experience in the New York City area,” Register said, adding they will see one Broadway show, with the students voting to see the award-winning “Wicked.” “So they’re excited about that. We’re going to fit that in between the rehearsals and the concert itself.”

Register, who is winding up a 37-year teaching career, including a long stint at Kathleen High School, said her goal was to introduce the students to the opportunities music can provide.

“So I, just as an educator, I feel the call to take them to places, any musical events, to see where the music will take them, so that they can experience other parts of the world,” Register said. “That really was my bigger mission of this. And the music is – they will love it … I just wanted them to have this in their experience as a young musician.”

One of the singers is Shelby Jones, a 17-year-old senior with a 4.4 grade point average and her sights on the University of Florida to study psychology. Jones achieved All-State and All-County Chorus and is in the top two LHS ensembles.

“I was so excited because that’s, like, a landmark place and I just didn’t think that it would happen,” Jones said about being accepted to sing at Carnegie Hall. “I didn’t expect that we’d be able to do that.”

Jones said she has always loved to sing and began performing in the sixth grade with her middle school chorus. She said in order to be accepted into honors chorus, students had to at least try out for all state or all county. One of her groups achieved a high superior rating at All-State and was asked to perform another song for the judges “just for fun.”

Jones and the honors chorus recently sang outside the home of Mackenzie Orth, an 8-year-old girl with cancer, as part of an event to bring Christmas cheer to her.

The LHS Honors Chorus performs in early December. | Kimberly C. Moore, LkldNow

Jones said she has visited New York City once before but was little and doesn’t remember too much of the trip.

“I know that it is such an amazingly busy environment, so going with a group of people – going with my friends – I just think it’ll be really fun,” Jones said.

Jones said they will be receiving the music and songs they will perform after Christmas break, when they will begin – what else? – practicing.

“I don’t know how many songs we’re singing or what the genres are, but I’m really excited for learning new music,” Jones said.

Register pointed out that these talented students attend Lakeland High and not the adjacent Harrison School for the Arts, a magnet school for performing and visual arts students.

If you’d like to help, the chorus has a Venmo account, @DreadnaughtChrous; its QR code is shown at left. In addition, checks can be made out to the LHS Chorus, earmarked for the Carnegie Hall trip, and sent to Regina Register at Lakeland High School, 726 Hollingsworth Road, Lakeland, FL 33801.

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Kimberly C. Moore

Kimberly C. Moore, who grew up in Lakeland, has been a print, broadcast and multimedia journalist for more than 30 years. Before coming to LkldNow in the spring of 2022, she was a reporter for four years with The Ledger, first covering Lakeland City Hall and then Polk County schools. She is the author of “Star Crossed: The Story of Astronaut Lisa Nowak," published by University Press of Florida. Reach her at kimberly@lkldnow.com or 863-272-9250.

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