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Living (and singing) the dream

Living (and singing) the dream

Greenwood Community High School senior performs at Carnie Hall

Compiled by Jeremy Nicholas and Nancy Hammerstrom

What do iconic performers like Duke Ellington, Judy Garland and Billie Holiday have in common with Greenwood student Emma Koehl?

They have all performed at the prestigious Carnegie Hall.

Koehl was selected to perform on Feb. 10 as part of the annual High School Honors Performance Series under the direction of Dr. Jeffrey L. Ames and sang as a soprano in the Honors Concert Choir.

The Honors Performance Series was created to showcase accomplished individual student performers on an international level by allowing them to study under master conductors and perform in world renowned venues. The Honors Performance Series is presented by WorldStrides, the nation’s leading educational travel organization.

Out of approximately 1,500 students to audition for the Honors Performance Series, 500 students were chosen, and just 179 were selected for the Honors Concert Choir.

“We processed nearly 10,000 nominations this year and have selected the most talented student performers from around the world,” stated Marion Gomez, music director for the Honors Performance Series. “Working with these conductors and performing at these renowned music halls is a once-in-a-lifetime experience that these musicians will never forget.”

Koehl, who has studied music for 10 years, has performed in multiple GCSC choirs, was an Indiana Vocal Jazz Ensemble State Finalist; has received dozens of Gold ratings including perfect scores at District and State ISSMA competitions in both voice and clarinet; sang as a Master Class Vocalist at DePauw University under Dr. Janani Sridhar, where she also performed in ensemble under the direction of Z. Randall Stroope in October 2023.

Greenwood Community School Corporation Director of Choirs Daniel Watson has worked with Koehl since 2020.  

“My hope for Emma is that she realizes and enjoys that ‘music takes you places,’” said Watson. “It takes you places socially with people; emotionally with the text; spiritually with your worldview; intellectually with thought, and physically with the community. Her trip to Carnegie Hall marks a milestone at the end of her high school career and the start of her next chapter. I look forward to continuing to support Emma on her musical journey!”

In August 2023, Koehl began voice lessons with Bradley Lieto in preparation for the audition and for entering the University of Indianapolis’s Music Education Degree Program in the fall of 2024. Kohel will focus on High School Choral Direction. After she receives her bachelor’s degree in music education, she hopes to receive her master’s degree and eventually a doctorate degree.

To view Koehl’s performance of “Sebben, Crudele” from Antonio Caldara’s 1710 opera La costanza in amor vince l’inganno from the Master Class, go toyoutu.be/4pSiAwIECWw.

Q&A with Emma Koehl:

How did you feel when you were selected to sing?

I felt really excited and proud of myself when I heard that I got into the program. Much of my previous vocal success has been with ensembles at school, but being chosen to participate through a solo audition has helped to validate my own abilities. This is a huge opportunity for me, as I pursue my goal of directing vocal music one day. I am honored to get to do something of this magnitude so early in my life, and being selected has greatly boosted my confidence in my own talent. Much of my previous vocal success has been through choral ensembles at school, but being chosen to participate through a solo audition has validated my own ability and talent.

What did you perform?  We performed seven pieces of various genres and languages. A few of the pieces are “Gloria Fanfare” by our own conductor, Dr. Jeffery L. Ames; “Rytmus” by Ivan Hursovsky; “Svjati Boze” by Lisa Milena Simikic; and “I Wanna Be Ready” arranged by Dr. Brandon Boyd.

What have been a few challenges you’ve encountered along the way as a performer and how did you work through them?

As a performer, I have found myself lacking drive or passion throughout my time as a musician. To overcome this I remind myself how much effort I have already put into my music, and I seek guidance from experienced musicians around me.

Q&A with Emma’s mom, Nita Koehl

How was the performance on Saturday?

“The music performed by the students was simply superb, and they incorporated the use of piano, electric guitar, bongos, hand bells, and a glass harmonica choir to accompany the students,” said Emma’s mother, Nita Koehl. “Hearing such talent in a space specifically designed to envelop its audience in sound was otherworldly. And to top off the weekend, Emma returned home to an email from UIndy, welcoming her into their School of Music next year!”

When did you first notice Emma’s interest and potential as a singer?  

Emma’s first “star” moment for singing was at a church worship night when she was 5. I had been practicing a song in the car during our daily drives for a couple of weeks. The night of the performance, Emma asked if she could join me on stage. I said, “Absolutely!” She got her own mic, and when I was not able to sing because her baby brother unexpectedly joined us, Emma continued singing the song alone through the end like she had been doing it her whole life!

How has she grown as a performer through the years?

Emma’s confidence and resolute drive have increased immensely as she’s matured as a performer. She has been devoted to advancing her skills, and she works continually to figure out and hone the type of musician she wants to be. She’s been blessed with a great amount of natural talent and passion for music, but her work ethic and drive to be her best is what has ultimately ensured her success. This has included many hours of practice, seeking out advanced instruction and truly absorbing and adapting to critique when it’s been received.

What potential do you see for her in the future?  

Emma will accomplish anything she puts her mind to, because she has natural talent and passion inspiring her and the work ethic and drive to succeed.  I am sure this is not the last time we will see her on such a prestigious stage!

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