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Dutchtown Chorus to sing at Turner Field

By Johnny Jackson

jjackson@henryherald.com

Asia Wright is a confident singer most days.

But the 10-year-old soprano may find herself in nervous company next week, when she performs with the Dutchtown Elementary School Chorus.

The 30-member chorus will be featured May 15 during the next home game for the Atlanta Braves at Turner Field. Dutchtown's chorus members will sing the national anthem to open a three-game series against the Arizona Diamondbacks.

"It will be cool to sing," Wright said. "I love to sing. I sing everywhere and everything, but I think I could be a little nervous."

The chorus expects to sing in front of thousands of baseball fans, a fact that looms larger each day as the event approaches, according to music teacher Heidi Long.

"I hate to admit it, but I'm a little bit nervous. I think it's big," said Long, who is also Dutchtown's reigning Teacher of the Year.

She said the chorus has participated in major events before, throughout the region, including annual trips to Disney World to sing in the "Magic Music Days" events.

"I try to expose our students to a variety of performance venues so they can have different experiences," Long said. "But this is a first time for me."

Long directs the school chorus as an extracurricular activity. Students go through an audition process at the beginning of each school year and must participate in 45-minute rehearsals each Friday morning, before school starts. She said the chorus has special-called rehearsals, as well, before some performances.

"We work hard in Henry County Schools in academics and extracurricular [activities]," she said. "It's not just reading and math. There are so many things involved in their education. We work hard to teach the whole child. And every child has a gift, we just have to find out what that gift is."

Much of the chorus' success in the past three years can be attributed to Long, according to Winnie Johnson, principal at Dutchtown.

"This has been a nice ending to our school year," Johnson said. "They participate and are successful in many things, and I attribute most of that to Ms. Long's willingness to go over and beyond."

The students' national anthem performance will also represent the culmination of a school-wide fund-raiser at Dutchtown.

Janet Youmans, the school's media specialist, got involved earlier this spring with the Braves' fund-raising program, selling 350 tickets for the May 15 game to raise money for the school.

According to Braves spokeswoman Meagan Swingle, proceeds from the ticket sales afforded the school more than $1,000.

"The opportunity to perform the national anthem is provided as an incentive to help them reach their fund-raising goals," said Swingle, who added that the chorus' audition performance was reviewed and accepted by the Atlanta Braves National Anthem Committee.

"These students are incredible," Long said of the Dutchtown Chorus. "We're very lucky, here, to have this talent and support."

Fourth-graders Jordyn Alexander and Shyann Roddy said they are excited about taking part in the pre-game ceremonies, but are nervous about being the center of attention during the performance.

"There's a lot of people that are going to be there," said Alexander, 10.

"I'm just going to sing my heart out," said 10-year-old Roddy. "And I probably won't be able to speak the next day."