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Student soprano strikes a high note

Kelsey Jeffs started singing in the sixth grade when she joined her Lewiston-Porter school's chorus. And in just four years, her soprano voice was part of a national choir performing in Carnegie Hall.

Kelsey, now a sophomore, was recently selected for the 2011 American High School Honors Performance Series in Carnegie Hall -- a five-day program in New York City. She was among top high school vocalists and musicians from around the country who rehearsed and performed in February with accomplished conductors as part of the elite program. The participants had to submit audition recordings and letters of recommendations to apply.

When she's not singing in renowned concert venues, she performs with the Lewiston-Porter Senior Choir and Jazz Choir. She has also earned a place in the All-County and All-Area State choirs four straight years. The 16-year-old has been doing theater since third grade and does a lot of school and community theater plays. Kelsey's also a history buff, performing in re-enactments at Old Fort Niagara and volunteering at the historical society in Porter.

How did you learn about the performance series at Carnegie Hall? And why did you apply?

I had never heard of it. I just got a letter in the mail that said they wanted me to audition. I don't know how the letter got to me. I'm really not sure. But I applied because I thought it would be an amazing experience to go to this big, world-famous place and sing. And I got selected, which made made me think, 'I can actually do this.' "

What did it feel like to be on that stage -- to actually sing in Carnegie Hall?

Oh my God, it was amazing. Once you walk on stage you really realize how real it really was. Before it was just a dream, something that couldn't happen to a high school student. And then you look out to the audience, and it's so beautiful. I wasn't nervous at all; there were about 200 other kids up there with me. It was a lot of fun.

So the performance was a dream come true?

Carnegie Hall is very famous and well-known, but it wasn't a huge dream of mine, but it was a goal. I more or less saw myself on Broadway, but it was still a great experience.

How long was the performance?

We performed for about an hour. But there were also honors orchestra and band, and they took twice as long because instrument pieces are twice as long as choral ones. We sang a jazzy "God Bless America" and a few other songs. The pianist was actually the composer of one of the songs we performed.

But it wasn't all glitz and glamour since four days were devoted to hours-long rehearsals? What did the rehearsals entail?

We were there for five days, and we rehearsed eight hours a day the first four days, and the last day was the performance. We practiced different songs and worked with different musicians.

Was the schedule at all grueling?

No, it wasn't. The director was so full of energy, and everyone was in great spirits and wasn't bum that they had to sit eight hours and sing. And being there and seeing my parents in the balcony on performance night made the eight hours a day all worthwhile. And I also developed little friendships with other performers from all over the country and parts of the world.

Did you get a chance to enjoy the city?

Yes, I did. Each day we got an hour break to do what we wanted. We split into five groups with chaperones to go and see the city.

Since you returned from New York City, what have you been up to?

I've done four plays so far this year -- two at school and two at the Community Theatre in Youngstown. Right now I'm doing "Midlife Crisis," at the Community Theatre in First Presbyterian Church, and I got the lead role. I've been doing theater since I was in the third grade. I like doing musicals more than I like doing plays, but I like doing both.

What do you ultimately want to do with your singing ability? Do you see a professional career in your future?

I'm honestly torn. I want to do something with history, or I want to be on Broadway and do musicals. I like history and love re-enacting, I do a lot of it. History is not one of those subjects you just learn, but it's a big story.

And what do you love about singing and music?

I just love everything about singing, everything.

Know a Niagara County resident who'd make an interesting question-and-answer column? Write to: Scott Scanlon, Q&A, The Buffalo News, P.O. Box 100, Buffalo, NY 14240, or e-mail

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