From Freeman High School to Carnegie Hall


FREEMAN, S.D. (KELO) — A group of teens from Freeman High School left Wednesday for New York City to sing in Carnegie Hall. The 26 current and former members of the Freeman High School choir will perform at the iconic venue on Saturday.

Carnegie Hall in New York City is a long way from Freeman High School choir director Mindee Birnstiehl’s home in Freeman, South Dakota where the group is practicing here. 

But it’s not too far- they’re singing at this cathedral of music on Saturday.

“I’m super excited for this experience,” Freeman High School senior Jenna Baer said. “I’ve always grown up in small towns. I have lots of friends that live in Sioux Falls, and just going from small-town Freeman to Sioux Falls is just a big jump, and so imagine going from small-town Freeman to Carnegie Hall, it’s just a huge difference, and I’m really excited just for those experiences.”

“It’s a great privilege,” Freeman High School graduate Kaylee Auch said. “Not many people get this chance to go up there.”

“I am very excited,” Freeman High School graduate Rachael Petts said. “I’ve always been a big musical, Broadway, nerd person, so singing there is just very exciting.”

Exciting, she says, because of who else has been there.

“I think it’s just thinking about how many big-name people have sang there before and just the power of music and being together,” Petts said.

They’re singing at Carnegie Hall, Birnstiehl says, on a recommendation.

“About two years ago I received an email saying that we had been recommended by Dr. David Holdhusen, the choir director at the University of South Dakota, to go and sing in Carnegie Hall,” Birnstiehl said. “And I thought it was just maybe a joke, and so I emailed Dr. Holdhusen and said is this for real, and he said yes.”

The group isn’t just singing in New York- they’ll also be seeing sights, taking in a Broadway show, and going on a harbor boat ride.

“It’s kind of surreal, especially for a small town in South Dakota to be recognized for something at this level is just really an awesome honor,” Birnstiehl said.

These singers are going to have an international experience in New York, too.

“We will be singing with two different choirs from Korea, and so I just find that that’s going to be a very cultural and a neat experience for these kids from rural South Dakota,” Birnstiehl said.

On Saturday they will sing the Magnificat by John Rutter. It’ll take around 40 minutes. Singing at Carnegie Hall promises to be powerful.

“I’ll be sitting in the audience, and I’m sure there’ll be a lot of tears that fall from my eyes,” Birnstiehl said.

“I feel like it’s just going to be like an emotional thing,” Baer said.

After all, not every musician gets the chance to perform somewhere like Carnegie Hall. But they will.

“It’s a huge honor, first of all to be noticed by a college professor here in the state of South Dakota, but then to go and join those choirs from Korea and actually perform with real professional musicians hopefully will be a highlight and a memory that these kids will never forget,” Birnstiehl said.

“I’m just going to be awestruck,” Baer said. “I’m going to be like, ‘Oh, I’m actually doing this.'”

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