Meramec choir’s prelude to Carnegie Hall

Posted on 18 April 2017 by Ian Schrauth

Jerry Myers takes students to perform in New York City

 

By: Dalila Kahvedzic
Art & Life Editor

 

Performing at Carnegie Hall was a life changing event, St. Louis Community College-Meramec professor of music and music program coordinator Jerry Myers said.

Myers has been teaching full time at Meramec for 8 years and had always wanted to teach, he said.

He came to this realization during his time atWashington and Lee University, where he taught for 10 years before he came to teach at Meramec.       

“I realized there I enjoyed teaching the freshman/sophomore level,” Myers said. “An added benefit [of teaching at Meramec] that I didn’t realize before coming here, is so many community members are involved and non-traditional students that especially can make up for a great choir.”

A total of 55 students went on the trip March 23-27, 35 of whom were singers, Myers said. Three of the 35 students were alumni.

This opportunity was possible because of the great relationships Myers maintained while teaching, he said, he often tries to organize performances with other colleges and high schools.choir

“Dr. Carter, who’s the Department Chair at Webster [University] contacted me and some of the other directors around St. Louis and he had the idea of putting together a large St. Louis collegiate choir to perform at Carnegie and it quickly was put together from there,” Myers said. “It ended up that it was Webster University, us [Meramec] and 15 singers from UMSL, so the entire choir that performed at New York had six schools — including students from Iowa, California and Tennessee — 260 singers total.”

The orchestra at Carnegie Hall was The New York Chamber Orchestra, Myers said. They are from the Metropolitan Opera and the New York Film Harmonic, and have played together for 18 years.

“Pretty much the world’s best musicians,” Myers said.            

The piece that the choir performed, Franz Schubert’s “Mass in A flat”, was the first time that Manhattan Concert Productions had produced it in Carnegie Hall, Myers said, and was one of the more challenging ones that they ever did. Singers rehearsed for 10 hours with Dr. Rayl, the guest conductor, over three days and had a 1-hour sound-check to rehearse for the 50-minute piece.

“I overheard one of our students, just as we get on the stage, very softly he said to the gentlemen by him, ‘it’s been an honor to sing with you,’ and I thought — that’s nice. Because for him, it was also that experience of singing with others from other schools that you never sung with and probably will never see again,” Myers said.

It was enjoyable to watch the students succeed, Myers said.

“I’ve never been in a group that’s worked that hard,” Myers said. “It’s one of the most challenging choral works to perform — I’ve never been in a performance that was that polished,” Myers said. “To understand the work that’s 50 minutes long with such depth that you’re not even looking down at your music much in the performance because you know it that well.”

Myers said he thinks the experience for students to work with Dr. Rail was a good opportunity, as well as performing in such a historic place.             

“To perform in such a legendary hall is pretty life changing — I mean forever these students will have had the opportunity of singing in that space and for most of them that I’ve talked to, it wasn’t lost on them that the best musicians in the world for well over 100 years have performed in that space,” Myers said.

Collaboration improves performance and listening skills which is important for musicians, Myers said.

“I think it just teaches them [students] in general how to collaborate, something that’s an important life skill — that you need to work with others, you need to adjust your way of doing something to fit into a group context and that’s a lot of what music is about — it’s about collaboration,” Myers said.            

Myers said likes to take students outside of the Meramec campus.            

“I’d like to do something like this again, a major concert hall, Carnegie or others, certainly, as long as they have experiences for the students and are very different from what we can get here — learning needs to go beyond our rehearsal room and our theatre — it needs to be bigger,” Myers said.            

Minds cannot be expanded when students are just in the rehearsal room, Myers said. He likes to introduce students to what they might be doing at a four-year school.           

“If they would be a freshman or sophomore at a four-year school, what would they do?” Myers asked. “We need to do the same things, or more, here. That’s how we build. You can’t do the same concerts over and over again. You have to do something different, you have to do something bigger.”

Myers had been to Carnegie Hall before, but as an audience member.            

“Oh — it’s really wonderful from both views,” Myers said. “But as a musician, to be on the stage, to hear your sound in the house in that quality of hall — you can hear your sound as clearly as you can on stage — it’s life changing.”

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