St. Helens teen chosen for national honor choir
A St. Helens teen has been selected as one of just 250 students to take part in the National Association for Music Education's National Honor Ensemble in November in Florida.
Hayden Weitzel, a junior at St. Helens High School, will perform with the national choir during a four-day event held in Orlando Nov. 26 through 29, as one of just hundreds of teens selected to perform a choral arrangement at Walt Disney World's Coronado Springs Resort.
In order to take part in the honor choir, Weitzel first had to audition and be selected to perform in the Oregon All-State Choir. In the spring, she was one of 150 students in the state to be selected.
Afterward, Weitzel's high school choir teacher, Eric Stearns, encouraged her to make an audition video for the national honor choir, which she submitted in May. In July, she received notification she had been selected.
"I actually didn't think I'd get in," Weitzel said. "My whole thought process was, if I don't audition, I'll never know if I'd get in, so I took a chance and it paid off."
Stearns said the choral piece Weitzel selected for her audition was challenging — a 16th century Renaissance motet — which was in stark contrast to the pop music and chamber choir pieces Weitzel usually sings.
"For her to bounce back and back like that from genre to genre is impressive," Stearns said.
Stearns said he was equally excited when he heard the exciting news about one of his students and felt elated and happy for the teen.
"I'm so proud of her," Stearns said. "She put herself out there in a big way."
Weitzel said she is looking forward to meeting other teens who share her interests and getting to perform with them, as well as getting the chance to visit Walt Disney World for the first time.
Stearns, who also provides private voice lessons to Weitzel, said he has enjoyed working with the junior, who he describes as a strong but caring person with a quick ability to teach others.
The NAfME honor program offers students in choir, symphonic orchestra, concert band and jazz band an opportunity to work with musical directors and professionals from various colleges and universities and perform on a national stage each year. This year, students will also be given the chance to visit Walt Disney World while in Florida.
To pay for the trip, Stearns helped Weitzel set up an online fundraiser on the crowd-
sourcing website GoFundMe earlier this year. Through various donations from friends, family and community members, they were able to raise $1,360.
Although Weitzel has not received her choral music yet, she said she will be rehearsing from now until November, all while still taking part in the high school's choir, Chor Leonis, and taking a full load of classes.
Weitzel said she was humbled and honored to be selected for the choir and to feel supported by the community in the process.
"It's such a big honor and I'm definitely humbled," Weitzel said. "I'm grateful for the opportunity that I have to go and for the community members that have helped to help me fulfill my dreams."