Musicians hitting high notes
DHS singers to perform at Carnegie Hall, school’s music program seeks Grammy recognition
The De Soto High School music program is in the middle of a busier-than-usual holiday season.
Aside from regular performances -- December is typically peppered with seasonal concerts -- the music program was recently notified of its finalist status in the running to become a Grammy Signature School and also began plans for some of its singers to perform at New York City's famed Carnegie Hall in June.
Sponsored by the Grammy Foundation, the Grammy Signature Schools program is designed to honor exceptional music programs at public high schools nationwide. The Foundation will choose as many as 40 schools for the award, and each will receive a cash award of between $1,000 and $10,000 for enhancing its music program.
De Soto's choral teacher, Mary Etta Copeland, said she received an invitation earlier this fall to apply for an award and decided to go for it.
The school was notified in mid-November that it was one of 100 finalists in Kansas for the award, Copeland said. All supplemental application materials, which were mailed Saturday, should now be well on their way to Santa Monica, Calif., Copeland said.
Those include lists of all music performed by De Soto's choir, madrigals, band and jazz band since last year, plus copies of programs and multiple recordings of each five concerts.
"We had to make fresh recordings of our music, which we were doing last week on top of Christmas music," Copeland said.
The Grammy Signature School application also required essays describing how the school would use grant money if it wonCopeland had plenty of ideas for that part.
One possibility would be to initiate collaboration with professional musicians. Copeland said guest artists could help inspire, coach and connect students with careers in the music profession.
Another idea would be to buy keyboards for a piano lab at De Soto High School.
A piano lab could benefit the whole student population, Copeland said. It could be used for music students as well as others who wanted to learn the skill, an ability Copeland said has been correlated with higher IQ in children and could help productivity for high school students, too.
"One of the things I notice is that students just love to mess with the piano," she said.
The Grammy Foundation grants are new to Copeland, but she said her choral students have been invited before to sing at Carnegie Hall at a performance in conjunction with the music program at Kansas State University.
But this year, Copeland said the timing seemed right to take up a great opportunity.
"I decided that this is maybe the year to do it," she said.
Traveling to New York City for the Carnegie Hall performance, however, is limited because of money.
Copeland said it was open for any of the singers who could pay their own way. So far, 16 students and five parent sponsors have signed up. Because the performance is so far away, Copeland said she thought a few more would probably add.
Following a request by De Soto resident and mother Anita Woywod, who spoke on behalf of the choral program, the De Soto City Council approved donating $2,700 to the cause.
After Council discussion, Mitra Templin motioned to donate the money from the city's Transient Guest Tax fund, and Betty Cannon seconded.
Woywod said the high school singers would organize their own fund-raising events but that there would be students who couldn't afford to go without help. She said the trip would cost about $1,350 per student.