As the start of the school year draws near, students from MacArthur High School’s Varsity Treble Choir will return to learn with a little extra pep in their step. This summer, they received an invitation from the American Choral Directors Association to perform at the Southwestern Convention in Denver, Colo.
To put this into perspective, the last time MacArthur High School received a convention invitation for any fine arts organization was in 1975, when the MacArthur choir performed at the Texas Music Educators Association’s Convention. The last time any Irving ISD high school fine arts program received an invitation to perform was back in 1976.
“This is our version of being state football champions,” says Lauren Davis, Choir Director at MacArthur High School. “A convention invitation is the highest honor and recognition a high school music organization can receive.”
Davis submitted performance recordings of the ensemble from the last three years. MacArthur’s Varsity Treble Choir was selected out of over a hundred submissions from high schools in Texas, Colorado, Arkansas, Kansas, Missouri, New Mexico and Oklahoma.
“Finding out that we are going to be able to perform outside of the state was awesome,” says LolaBelle Dempsey, a senior at MacArthur High School. “I am so happy for our choir because we work really hard, and being rewarded for our efforts is the best thing ever!”
For Rokhaya Cissie, having the opportunity to perform in Denver is the best way to close out her senior year.
“It feels like this is the finale of a TV show,” says Cissie. “We needed this confirmation to know that everything we did was right, and this is a great way to remember it all.”
The Southwestern Convention will take place from Tuesday, February 27, 2024, through Saturday, March 2, 2024, at the Buell Theater of the Denver Center for the Performing Arts. The venue holds nearly 3,000 people, something that has Dempsey and Cissie feeling nervous and excited.
“I am extremely nervous,” says Cissie. “3,000 people is a lot of people! I would be crying on stage if I was up there by myself, but because I will be performing with people I am comfortable with, I think I will be fine.”
“We perform all the time, and I am also in theater, so being on the stage is where my environment is,” says Dempsey. “I am not nervous; I am excited. However, given the size of the audience, it is probably the most I will have ever performed in front of. The nerves I feel are nerves of excitement and anticipation.”
Dempsey, who also serves as vice president and social media manager for the choir, credits the various rehearsals that took place outside of normal school hours for allowing them to be as good as they have grown to become.
“It is really time-consuming, and you have to want to do the work if you are going to be in our choir,” says Dempsey. “We are around each other constantly every day. Forming bonds with all the members in our choir, working as a team and having a director that sees you as an equal, while still being an authority figure, is what has helped us become as good as we are.”
Cissie is already considering the positive impact this will have on her life after high school. She is planning on minoring in vocal performance and is looking forward to submitting college applications knowing she will be able to add this to her resume.
“This is a significant achievement for a high schooler,” says Cissie. “Even if it is a collaborative effort, it is still a big deal and it will help me moving forward by making my submissions stand out even more.”