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Luella student to sing at Carnegie Hall

Luella High School sophomore, Rachel Stokes, was selected to participate in the 2012 American High School Honors Series at Carnegie Hall in New York City.

Luella High School sophomore, Rachel Stokes, was selected to participate in the 2012 American High School Honors Series at Carnegie Hall in New York City.

Rachel Stokes is restless for the bright lights of the big city, and the acoustics of a grand music hall.

The 16-year-old soprano is preparing to attend the 2012 American High School Honors Performance Series at Carnegie Hall, in New York City. She was selected last fall to take part in the event’s Honors Choir showcase.

“I’m excited beyond belief,” said Stokes, who is a student at Luella High School in Locust Grove.

She was nominated to audition for the Honors Performance Series last summer by her choral instructor, Beth Massengale, who will join her for six days (Feb. 8-13) in The Big Apple.

Massengale said participation in the Honors Choir is limited to the highest-rated high school performers from across North America, and select schools internationally. The Honors Performance Series allows accomplished, individual high school performers to study for a week under master conductors, such as the renowned Dr. Jeffery Ames, for a once-in-a-lifetime performance at Carnegie Hall.

The choral director noted that her pupils, in some ways, remind her of herself, growing up with a passion for music and song. “Sometimes, I’m a little envious, because I think she has more talent than I do,” said Massengale.

Massengale counts Stokes among the top 10 talents she has come across in her 20-year career as a music educator. She estimates that she has instructed some 7,000 students in that time.

“It’s fun to watch them grow,” she said. “She’s extremely talented. She deserves this honor greatly, because of her outstanding musicianship, her passion for music, and her desire to go above and beyond to make herself a better musician.”

Massengale, also a soprano singer, and a pianist, acknowledged that she did not have the opportunity to perform at Carnegie Hall as a young, aspiring musician and singer.

“People didn’t do things like this when I was going through high school,” she added. “She is getting to perform with roughly 250 kids from across this nation. She’s getting a chance to perform at Carnegie Hall, which most people could only dream to do. And she’s going to get to see what the world is outside of Henry County.”

Stokes’ audition last fall included an audio recording of her singing voice and an application, which was reviewed by a selection-board committee.

“I am a very loud singer,” explained Stokes. “I definitely know how to project.”

The outgoing teen plays acoustic guitar as well. But she uses her vocal instrument most often, singing in her school’s advanced choral groups, show choir, and community chorus. She also sings in the adult choir at Teamon Baptist Church, in Griffin.

Stokes said she has participated in tours with the Georgia Baptist Youth All-State Choir and with the District 6 Honors Choir. She also sings in her school’s Fellowship of Christian Athletes club. Singing comes naturally to the high school sophomore, who recalled belting out notes when called upon as a first-grader, and more recently, making music as part of a flash mob last June, during a church mission trip to Kentucky.

“I would always sing the national anthem loud, and proud, when I was in school,” said Stokes. “I love to just go anywhere and start singing.”

Among her talents and passions, she also teaches sign language at Luella Elementary School, in Locust Grove. The volunteer work, she said, addresses her passion to help younger children.

Stokes said she plans to go to college and major in music education, or music therapy, in pursuit of a career similar to that of her teacher and vocal mentor, Beth Massengale.

“I would like to do what Ms. Massengale does,” Stokes said. “I love it, and I love kids.”

Massengale returned the compliment, and added some advice for Stokes. “She would be a phenomenal student, because she works well with others, and she loves to share her passion with others,” Massengale said. “Follow your heart and sing with all of the passion in it.”

To learn more, visit www.honorsperformance.org.