Schodack Central School District congratulates and wishes the best of luck to one of our student musicians! Maple Hill Sophomore Jasper Thomas has been selected to perform next week as a member of the National Honor Choir at the prestigious American Choral Directors Association (ACDA) National Conference! The ACDA National Honor Choir gathers together many of the most talented and driven student choral singers in the country to perform.

American Choral Directors Association 2023 Conference Logo

The 2023 ACDA National Conference takes place in Cincinnati, OH from February 22-25 and Jasper’s concert performance with the National Honor Choir is the closing event on Saturday, February 25. Jasper will be in Cincinnati for the entirety of the conference and will spend the week participating in an intensive rehearsal schedule with their student musician peers leading up to the final concert.

American Choral Directors Association logo

Jasper learned about the ACDA Conference and the opportunity to perform with the National Honor Choir when they were participating in the 2022 New York State School Music Association (NYSSMA) Summer Conference. After researching the requirements and rehearsing, they auditioned for the National Honor Choir at the start of the 2022-23 School Year.

Jasper found out they had been accepted in late October 2022 and has been rehearsing daily since to prepare for next week. Joining Jasper in Cincinnati next week is Schodack Central School District Music Teacher & Choir Director Christina Gibney who is able to attend thanks to funds from the Schodack Faculty Association Grant. The National Honor Choir requires an ACDA member to sponsor the auditioning student and Mrs. Gibney was Jasper’s.

We spoke with Jasper a bit about their student-musician background, what drove them to audition for the National Honor Choir, the rehearsal process and more.

Jasper Thomas

Maple Hill’s Jasper Thomas

Tell us a little about your involvement in student music programs and activities.

I moved to Schodack not too long ago, so I’ve only been participating in music activities at Maple Hill for about a year and a half. During that time, I’ve been in Swing Choir, the 2022 Cabaret, Chorus, the All County Music Festival and the Maple Hill Drama Club’s production of Disney’s Beauty and the Beast which we performed last weekend.*

I went to Ichabod Crane CSD before Schodack and participated in many similar music activities there (Drama Club, Chorus, Sing Swing and the All County Music Festival). Before I was old enough to perform in the school drama program I was in two productions (Mulan and Aladdin) at the Cue Theatre in Delmar.

*See pictures from the Drama Club’s rehearsals on the Schodack CSD Facebook page. 

How did you hear about the National Honor Choir and the ACDA Conference?

Last year Mrs. Gibney asked if I would participate in the Honor Choir at the NYSSMA Summer Conference. When I was there I learned about the possibility of auditioning for the National Honor Choir, so I and friend decided we would go for it and see if we could make it. I love singing and I decided this could be a very good opportunity.

Can you tell us a bit about the requirements and how you prepared to audition?

To qualify I needed to sing a 30-second portion of a song that best showcased my vocal range and it had to be completely a cappella. Then I had to sing a portion of a song that we would be performing at the ACDA Conference – also completely a cappella – as well as singing both ascending and descending major scales. To prepare before the audition, I would visit with Mrs. Gibney almost every school day during my advisory time to work on the scales and the songs I had to prepare. Once I felt ready, I recorded myself performing and submitted it to the ACDA for consideration.

After finding out I’d been selected I’ve continued going to see Mrs. Gibney during advisory to practice and in recent weeks I’ve been coming in early to get some extra time in too. Overall, I’ve been spending most of my free time at school working on music.

What kind of music will you and your peers be performing at the ACDA Conference?

The music we’re performing will span from gospel music to baroque. In his letter to all the selected performers the conductor said, “I tried to choose a repertoire that would allow us to celebrate our shared humanity regardless of our background.” I think that’s great because it gives me a chance to work on performing many different styles of music.

How does it feel to know Mrs. Gibney is able to come to Cincinnati to see the final result of all this?

Knowing Mrs. Gibney will be at the concert is reassuring because I know I’ll have someone in the audience in addition to my parents and she’ll be able to see how far I’ve come since we first met. I’m really grateful she’ll be there because it’s not just my hard work that went into this, it’s hers as well for helping me learn the songs and devoting so much of her spare time to this. She’s helped me with all of it, from troubleshooting the audition tapes to showing up at 7 AM to help me practice.