High school choir to perform at Carnegie Hall

ST. LOUIS COUNTY - "This little light of mine, I'm going to let it shine," the words to the old spiritual streamed out of the choir room at Normandy High School.

The little lights in the big voices of the children inside the room struggle to shine sometimes. They go to a school district that's broke. They don't know if they'll be able to graduate. The district will have to shut down on April 1.

The choir kids said the adults in charge of their district's future, don't often hear their voices.

"The students have a hard time getting our voices heard," said Raquan Smith. He comes from a crime ridden, rough neighborhood in Wellston. Gunshots go off on his street for hours after 9:30 p.m. most nights. He walks to school in snow, sleet, rain, or shine.

But here, in this small room, his voice carries, loud and clear.

"In the beginning, out of the darkness," he sings with his classmates.

"Everybody can say can say she's not worth it or the school district is bad for her, listen to me sing how can this possibly be bad," said Dianitia Butler. Her father died, and her mother works long and hard to support Dianitia and her siblings.

"I'm not the only person fighting to get out of this struggle," said Butler.

Most of the children at Normandy are from impoverished areas. It's a struggle their choir director, Duane Foster, understands. He is a Normandy graduate. He found his voice far away from here, on Broadway. Foster spent 12 years, as a professional actor on Broadway.

"My biggest hit was Ragtime, original company," he said.

Foster knows the voices of his choir belong on bigger stages too. So he applied to a national competition for high school choirs across the country. His choir was one of four invited to perform at Carnegie Hall in March, but the choir needed $20,000. It seemed impossible.

"The clock was ticking pretty loudly," said Chris Krehmeyer. He heard the call and answered it.

Krehmeyer is the head of the non-profit Beyond Housing. He reached out to his board of directors and former directors.

"How terrible if you earn something like that and you couldn't go," he said.

The story of the choir compelled the donors. They came up with the money, and five days after Krehmeyer started, he got the money to help send the children to New York.

Many of the children have never been out of St. Louis or on an airplane. Now their voices will carry a thousand miles, from Normandy to New York on one of the biggest stages in the world, where hundreds will hear them.


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