Youth’s voice to be heard in U.S. choir

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Kendrick Lee is a soft-spoken 18-year-old, but when he sings, his voice fills the room.

The Glacier High School senior recently was noted for his voice by earning a place as first tenor on the National Association for Music Education 2012 All-National Honor Ensembles mixed choir.

Lee is one of three students selected from Montana, and 149 students nationally, to perform at The Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., in June. Students will rehearse over four days before their performance.

To be considered for the choir, Lee had about five minutes to prove his talent. He submitted an audio recording singing a capella and scaled to test students’ vocal range, according to Sandee Sauer, Glacier High School choir director.

Lee has been a singer since he was 8, but only in the company of friends or family.

“I was singing all the time,” Lee said. “My parents said I was good. I thought that was biased because they’re my parents.”

While his parents, Matt and Jody, thought his voice was exceptional, it took some outside encouragement from his peers to bolster his confidence that he was musically inclined. Lee finally joined choir his sophomore year. Initially, Lee was nervous performing solos in front of audiences. His prior experience was singing “O Holy Night” to family as a child during Christmas.

“Other people told me to keep singing solos. I’m more comfortable now,” Lee said. “When it comes to picking solos, I like slow, melodic, beautiful songs.”

His vocal ability progressed and he began taking private voice lessons as a junior. He sings with the Glacier High School Concert Choir and the Glacier Echoes, a select vocal ensemble.

Lee was chosen twice for the Montana All-State Choir and has been selected for the All-Northwest Men’s Honor Choir along with receiving superior ratings at both district and state music festivals.

He has received various scholarship offers to colleges.

The most difficult piece Lee has sung to date was at the District 1 Music Festival last weekend — “Nessun Dorma” — an aria from Giacomo Puccini’s opera “Turandot.”

“I rehearsed so many times. The syncopation is hard. Opera is hard. You can’t sing it ‘pop-y’ or it will sound bad.”

Lee didn’t want to stop there.

“After I made All-State, it was like a domino effect. I wanted to make All-Northwest. After that, I wanted to keep going,” Lee said.

Sauer searched online and found the National Association for Music Education’s All-National mixed choir.

“Kendrick is a very gifted young tenor. His voice is pure and natural and a pleasure to listen to,” Sauer said. “ I am proud of his accomplishments and can’t wait to see how he uses his talent in the future.

The only thing holding Lee back from performing in D.C. is money.

The entrance fee is $790 and does not include the cost of airfare to Baltimore, Md., where students will be housed. Participants are scheduled to fly out June 21.

To help him on his way, Lee has begun the task of fundraising. An account has been set up for donations at Parkside Credit Union. Sauer noted this is a great opportunity for Lee and the two have brainstormed the idea of holding a recital  to raise money.

“This is not offered to many people, for someone to get to travel from Montana to sing with people of such caliber,” Sauer said.

Lee would like to be able to fly his parents and brother, Adam, out to see his performance.

“My whole family has sacrificed to let me sing [and travel] to try out for schools and scholarships,” Lee said.

After high school, Lee’s dream is to attend an East Coast music school, which is why he plans to audition at The Juilliard School in New York City before he returns home.

For donation questions, email Jody Lee at jodytlee@yahoo.com. For more information about The All-National Honor Ensembles visit www.nafme.org/events/view/2012-all-national-honor-ensembles.

Reporter Hilary Matheson may be reached at 758-4431 or by email at hmatheson@dailyinterlake.com.

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