- Associated Press - Friday, March 7, 2014

WELLSTON, Mo. (AP) - The Normandy School District has gone through a difficult year and is teetering on the verge of bankruptcy. But a high school chorale group is excelling, earning a trip to Carnegie Hall.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch (http://bit.ly/P8uPSq ) reports that the Normandy High School Chorale boarded a plane Friday for New York, where they’ll join other top high school choirs from around the country for a performance Sunday night.

The school district in St. Louis County is unaccredited. A Missouri Supreme Court ruling last summer paved the way for hundreds of Normandy students to transfer to better-performing schools, at the district’s cost. The result is that the district’s finances are so poor there was concern if it could even make it to the end of the school year.

“Through all of this chaos, havoc and bad things that we’ve been going through, we still are able to shine,” said Samone Smith, a soprano. “We’re the light that is shining for our school.”

Choir members learned last summer that they’d earned the trip after their audition recording was selected by judges from among more than 60 entries. The problem was the district didn’t have the money to fund the trip. Fundraisers generated about $1,000. Choir director Duane Foster was able to get grant money, but far short of enough to fund the trip.

The trip appeared unlikely until February, when Foster was invited to talk about the school’s fine arts program with Chris Krehmeyer, of the nonprofit group Beyond Housing, during a talk show on a Christian radio station. Beyond Housing is a suburban St. Louis agency that addresses housing, health and other needs for the poor.

“Here’s this group that earned this wonderful thing - to go to Carnegie Hall - but didn’t have the resources,” Krehmeyer said. “It seemed insult to injury.”

Krehmeyer emailed Beyond Housing’s board of directors. Within days, private donors had given $16,000 to cover the cost of sending 13 senior members of the chorale to New York, by plane, for three days. Taking all 28 members was too costly.

The choir members will join singers from high schools in Florida, California and Georgia on stage in Manhattan, inside one of the world’s most famous concert halls. They’ll visit the Empire State Building and the National September 11 Memorial. On Sunday morning, they’ll sing Gospel at Convent Avenue Baptist Church in Harlem.

“They need to see the world,” Foster said of the students. “For these kids to be in fine arts and to be performers, they need to go to a place that really, really thrives in that area. They need to see diversity. They need to see different cultures. To get outside of their own, quite limited, world in this district.”

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Information from: St. Louis Post-Dispatch, http://www.stltoday.com