Erin Wegner may be only 11 years old, but already she's enjoyed the musical experience of a lifetime.
1l The Severna Park Middle School student was one of two Marylanders accepted into the National Honors Children's Choir, which performed two weeks ago at the American Choral Director's Association national convention in San Antonio, Texas.
The 104 voices in the choir emanated from the finest young choral musicians in the United States and Canada. They performed under the baton of Doreen Rao, an internationally known conductor and director of choral programs at the University of Toronto.
"It was great to feel as though I was one of the best in the U.S.," says Erin. "Our conductor, like, she really enjoyed us. She made each person feel that they were really special and were in the group because they were the best."
Erin is a very active musician in the area. She sings in the chorus and Show Choir at Severna Park Middle, and is preparing the role of the witch in the school's production of "The Wizard of Oz." She also sings in the children's choir at Woods Memorial Presbyterian Church where her mother, Beth Wegner, directs her.
All that performing experience came in handy, for the audition process to the National Choir was anything but childlike.
Erin's name was submitted last spring by a former choir director. On an accompanying tape, Erin recorded a vocalise that demonstrated her range and flexibility as well as an a capella rendition of Michael Praetorius' difficult "Jubilate Deo." The "Kite Song" from "You're A Good Man Charlie Brown" rounded out the entry.
After receiving her acceptance letter in August, Erin spent the fall and winter memorizing such demanding works as Charles Ives' "In the Morning" and Rupert Lang's "Spirit of the Child."
"She worked very hard," says Mrs. Wegner, a soprano with the Newe Renaissance Voyces who helped her daughter with the music and accompanied her to San Antonio. "They are not easy pieces."
The hard work proved essential. When Erin arrived in Texas, she had to audition all over again. "They pulled the kids out of sectional rehearsals nine at a time and had them sing two of the songs just to make sure the kids knew the music," says Mrs. Wegner. "If they didn't know it, they didn't go on stage."
Erin passed with flying colors. "I really came to love the music, especially 'Spirit of the Child,' " Erin says. "It sounded very eerie .. and spooky at first, like nothing I'd ever heard before. But once it came together, it really made its point about children everywhere."
Erin was not the only one who was affected by the music. "As a musician, sitting there and hearing those 100 well trained kids' voices was awe inspiring," Mrs. Wegner says. "Those kids were sitting on the edges of their chairs just waiting to give more. It was phenomenal."