Four of the students from the Ragsdale High School choir gather around a table in their classroom, while their teacher, Marcus Young, heads to the piano across from them. They’re preparing to do their vocal warm-ups. 

The high schoolers seem a little shy, and nervous at first. But as soon as they open their mouths, something changes.

In a snap, the teenagers transform into professional singers. Their posture changes and their eyes lock in on Young, watching for the next cue. They’re not mumbling, or quiet anymore. They’re loud, precise, and confident.

On this day, the students are warming up to sing a song in their classroom. But in just a few short months, they’ll be singing on stage in New York City’s renowned Carnegie Hall. 

Young has been the chorus teacher at Ragsdale for two years, and in that time, he’s tried to lift his students up and remind them of their skills. He says he’s proud they have this opportunity.

“I think that's one of the most humbling experiences for me, when I do get to see students like this, who do take it to heart, who do strive to do the things that you're trying to implement," Young says. "And then you get to listen back and you get to hear what effects it has on others.”

They got the gig after the director of the CHROMATICA Music Collective in Greensboro, Jordan Lee, heard the choir perform locally. Lee is going to be the guest conductor at Carnegie in June, so he invited the students to take part in the show. 

They’ll be performing with other professional singers and an orchestra on an international stage that’s been around for more than 100 years. 

Needless to say, they’re excited. Like junior Bahekelwa Alonda, a tenor in the group. 

“I didn't know what Carnegie was. And when I looked up what it looked like, I was like, ‘Oh, my gosh, we're gonna be there.’ And it is huge," Alonda said. "Like, we've done three concerts this year already. And we performed in front of parents and friends and stuff like that.”

But Carnegie, he says, is on another level. 

They’ve done a lot of preparation over the past year, learning about proper breathing techniques and reading music. The students have grown as singers, but also as people. 

Ariel Barron-Torres says the class has helped his confidence. 

“I've definitely grown, and so much more than I could have ever expected. Like, when I first came to chorus, I [had] never been to a chorus, not in middle school, not nothing," Barron-Torres said. "I didn't know nothing about music notes, or even when I was looking at. And I was very shy. And I didn't even know I had the potential to do what I'm doing right now.”

As a bass, his singing voice is deep and powerful. This trip to Carnegie Hall will be his first time visiting New York, and his first time out of the state. 

Samantha Blackwelder, the soprano in the room, says she feels the experience will change their lives.

“I think it'll teach me a lot about confidence, and also teamwork, and working together to put on the best show we possibly can," Blackwelder said. "But it's definitely something that I think will help me and my other friends in choir in the future.”

That’s the hope for Marcus Young as well. He wants them to know that the sky is the limit, even if it’s hard to see that sometimes. 

“All of them are coming from different upbringings. Everyone may not feel the same about music," Young said. "I even have some students now where parents are second guessing whether they want them to take a music course, because they feel that maybe doubling up on a science is more meaningful for their future.”

He hopes this experience shows his students that it is possible to have a career in music if that’s what they want. 

“You can say, ‘I've been able to experience it. It was tangible. I was able to touch it, feel it, and now I know that I can achieve it,'" Young said. 

The students will be performing a concert in their school auditorium on May 17 to fundraise for their trip. Then they’ll take the stage at Carnegie from June 13 through the 17. 

Amy Diaz covers education for WFDD in partnership with Report For America. You can follow her on Twitter at @amydiaze.

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