Her voice is classical, her soul is rock 'n' roll

The Baltimore Sun

During a rehearsal with the Maryland Conservatory Chorale one day recently, Cara Heasley sang Schubert's Mass in G in Latin.

A couple of days later during a voice lesson, the 15-year-old North Harford High School student sang Giulio Caccini's Italian love song "Amarilli, Mia Bella."

But often at her Forest Hill home, Cara, who sings alto, has been known to belt out "You Shook Me All Night Long" by the heavy metal band AC/DC.

"I want to be a rock star," she says.

That aspiration might have to wait: The young singer's time is filled with engagements that fall more toward the sophisticated end of the musical spectrum. As one of about 150 vocalists selected from thousands of applicants nationwide, Cara spent this past week in Miami taking part in a prestigious music workshop.

Later this month, she will perform with two choral groups at Carnegie Hall. And in the spring of 2008, Cara and the North Harford High choir will sing during ceremonies leading up to the Summer Olympic Games in Beijing.

Those events might even serve her desire to one day be a rock star.

"I like singing contemporary music better than classical music. But classical training is the best way to learn how to sing," Cara said. "Classical music is not the easiest thing in the world for me to sing, so when I do it really well, it makes me feel so good."

As early as age 5, Cara was singing for family members, usually nursery songs.

"I sang with my uncle when a song I knew came on the radio," Cara said. "I grew up loving music."

She began formal vocal instruction in the fourth grade when she joined the choir at Copper Mill Elementary School in Montgomery County.

When her family moved to Forest Hill in 2001, Cara joined the fifth-grade choir. Now she sings in various choral groups at North Harford High - including the Lilacs, an auditioned ensemble of eight girls, and the Bel Canto, an advanced girls choir - as well as the Maryland Conservatory Chorale, an adult choir.

A fan of the music of AC/DC, Justin Timberlake, and the Dixie Chicks, Cara says people tell her that her singing voice sounds similar to country music singer Shania Twain's.

She plans to pursue a major in voice performance at Berklee College of Music in Boston. In addition to her vocal training, Cara also plays the piano, guitar and drums.

Cara spent the past week at the National Youth Treble Choir, a weeklong training program that culminates with performances. She and Taylor Zimmerman, a student at North Harford Middle School, were the only singers from Harford County schools to attend.

"It's going to be like a vocal boot camp," Cara said before she left for Miami. "We sing nine straight hours with a 15 minute break for lunch. I will be in a group of people that I don't know. It will almost be like going to a new school."

Cara planned to perform 10 classical and folk selections - some in foreign languages - with the choir during the event, which coincides with the national convention of the American Choral Directors Association. The ACDA sponsors the choir and selects the participants.

"The fact that Cara was selected for ACDA in Miami is a testament to her voice," said Martha Banghart, choral director at North Harford High. "If Cara sticks with her music and develops her passion for music even more than she has, she has a chance to perform in college, and even do recordings."

Upon returning from Miami, Cara will travel to New York, where she will perform with the North Harford a cappella choir and the Maryland Conservatory Chorale at Carnegie Hall on March 25.

The groups were invited to perform at Carnegie Hall with the New England Symphonic Ensemble and will sing Schubert's Mass in G Major in the Isaac Stern Auditorium.

But the biggest event lies ahead: Cara and members of the North Harford choir will begin preparing for a trip in May 2008 to China, where they will perform as part of America's Mid-Atlantic Choral tribute to the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

"It's going to be one of the best experiences of my life," she said. "I am so excited. It's the Olympics! What could be better?"

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