Carson High School junior Jalina Guthrie has turned some heads on a national level with her voice through the American Choral Directors Association. Now, she’s trying to raise funds for a rare opportunity to go to Kansas City, Mo., and audition for one of a few choirs with other students from across the nation.
Guthrie, 16, said she was “real excited” to find out recently she’d been chosen among her peers to try out with other students to make up at least one of four choirs for the ACDA, a professional organization for those who conduct choirs, including teachers.
Her choir teacher, Andy Sonnemaker, had announced to Guthrie and her class before the end of the year they were among the few chosen nationally to participate in the ACDA national choir, and Guthrie realized she would have to audition. She said she was required to prepare a solo, one major scale and another song preselected for them. She recorded “When Love is Kind,” Sonnemaker said, an old English song written by an anonymous composer that works well for alto parts.
When she finally found out she’d been chosen, she attended school feeling sick that day, she said.
“I walked into school, and (Mr. Sonnemaker) said, ‘Have you heard the news?’ He said I was the only one to be chosen, and I was like, ‘What, really?’ I was, like, really crying. It was the happiest I’d ever been in my whole life. I just can’t believe my singing is finally getting somewhere.”
The ACDA holds annual conferences for professionals to learn about new conducting techniques, equipment or recording, with one year dedicated to regional sessions and the next for nationals.
Sonnemaker, CHS’ choral music conductor for almost nine years, said every year the school sends at least one or more students to the conference. Last year, a quartet attended regionals. This year, only Guthrie was selected for the national event in Kansas City.
Sonnemaker said Guthrie’s audition will be for ACDA’s high school/college female group, and in recent years, the association had combined the age group. She would be trying out for a four-part women’s ensemble. She’s already been sent a packet of music to begin rehearsing.
“Jalina has a really versatile voice,” Sonnemaker said. “She’s got a strong voice, a really pretty voice. She’s got good musical instincts and learns things quickly. With the ACDA, it’s one of these things where it’s how good do you sound on this recording you send in, so it’s helpful to have a great sounding voice, and she does have a really nice sounding voice.”
Guthrie’s father and stepmother, Jeremy and Katrina Guthrie of Carson City, said as natives of Missouri, they’re making their own plans with family in the area, so mostly they’ll need funds for transportation and lodging expenses. They plan to drive, but they’re excited she was chosen.
“(Music) is the most universal form of language,” Jeremy Guthrie said.
Though she’s passionate about singing, Jalina said her professional goal is to become a geologist because of her fascination studying rocks and sediment.
“Singing is like my emotional passion, but the rocks are my mental passion,” she said. “It’s something I enjoy getting out and doing.”
“I told her she can start a show — ‘Rock and Roll,’” Jeremy said.
When she’s not singing with CHS’ choir, Jalina said she’s usually singing along with indie artists such as Billie Eilish, one of her favorites. Her tastes gradually have evolved over time but she’s never lost her flair for performing. As a child, Jeremy recalled Jalina frequently belting out “The Star-Spangled Banner” or “You Are My Sunshine.”
Jalina credited Sonnemaker for her current abilities now as a vocalist.
“He’s really nice; he knows how to teach you,” she said. “He’ll fix your mistakes and show you certain ways to sing.”
The conference takes place from Feb. 27 to March 2, and of the thousands of students for whom demonstration clips are submitted for auditions, only about 5 to 10 percent will be chosen to participate in a choir, Sonnemaker said. Once choir members are selected, they then get to perform usually just once at the conference in Kansas City. They might have a chance to do a few demonstration activities, depending on attendance, but it depends on the last day of the conference on Saturday, he said.
“It’s really the cream of the cream of the crop,” he said. “They get to work with internationally renowned conductors who rehearse with them for those few days and they’re singing with the top kids from across the country.”
Sonnemaker said ensuring CHS students are continuously selected for ACDA honor choirs is a commitment to encourage students to try new things.
“This is just one of those extra things that I push our students in doing more, sort of those higher-level experiences,” he said.
The Guthrie family has set up a GoFundMe account for donations to help Jalina with her travel and lodging expenses. As of Tuesday, she had reached $150 of her $2,000 goal. To contribute, visit www.gofundme.com/acda-national-choir.