All the hard work done by the 30 students in the Washington Mill Chorus over the past couple of years paid off this week. They were selected by a committee from the Volunteers of America (VOA) to perform at their annual awards banquet that was held at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Washington, D.C.
Michelle Powers Keegan, VOA Director of Development, Major Gifts, said, "They were fantastic. I heard them sing before we decided and they were phenomenal."
Kristi Hellmuth's daughter, Jordan, is in the chorus, and said, "Our music department has a great reputation; we auditioned and we were selected."
Washington Mill's Principal Tish Howard, feels the same way. After the performance, she said, "They were stellar and had so much grace and poise. I know that I'm biased, but we received so many compliments. People stopped us on the way in and out. What a tremendous opportunity for our students."
While the show was this past Monday evening, rehearsals started well before that. Guided by the leadership of Chorus Teacher Marlene Fleming-Dillon, the students practiced their three songs over and over again. They wanted to make sure that they got it just right.
They opened with "Joyful, Joyful" and "God Bless the USA Today." To close the festivities, they sang "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" in honor of Cal Ripken who was being recognized for his advocacy for children.
Kyle Ahn sang the lead-in solo for "Joyful, Joyful" and said he wasn't nervous at all. "We've done six or seven shows before, and this is the first one I didn't feel nervous for."
HE WASN'T NERVOUS either, when Cal Ripken came by the holding room to shake hands and say hello to everybody.
"We weren't expecting that," said Ahn.
Shalaun Franklin also thought it was "pretty cool" that Ripken came to see them. "I thought we'd see him in the crowd, I didn't expect that we'd actually get to talk to him."
Franklin was one of three students selected to ask Ripken a question during the banquet.
She asked, "When did you start playing baseball and what inspired you?"
Ripken responded by saying that his father gave him a plastic bat, ball and glove while he was still in his crib. He said that he was playing by the time he was six years old, and was inspired by one of the players popular during that time.
Jordan Hellmuth and Jonathan Hellberg were also selected to ask a question. The students were given dinner and gift bags with t-shirts, key chains, flip books and a cap before they left. They sang all the way home on the bus provided by VOA.
"I was so proud of them," said Howard.