In the heart of Midtown Manhattan, just two blocks south of Central Park sits one of the most iconic music venues in the world. Since its opening in 1891, the best singers and musicians in the world have graced the stages of Carnegie Hall in New York City.

It’s a long way from North Long Beach to the Big Apple, but a select group of Jordan High School students will soon get the opportunity to make that trip.

Those students will be participating in a festival hosted by National Concerts, which brings in choirs, bands, and orchestras from across the country to showcase their talent. Jordan students were invited to attend after submitting a video application last summer, and they are currently preparing for their trip in early 2024.

“They were very excited and were proud of the work they put in,” said Jordan High choir director JJ Garcia. “We do a lot of work in that classroom getting them prepared for concerts. So it was a moment of gratitude, but also a moment of recognition. They got that feeling that they’ve succeeded in the work they’ve put into the class.”

Garcia, who has been the choir teacher at Jordan for the last seven years, said this is a rare opportunity for musicians at the campus. The school’s accompanist, Kevin Nickelson, said there hasn’t been a trip even close to this magnitude in his 15 years on campus.

Jordan’s chamber singers were invited to perform at the festival, which will be on April 6. A class of 20 singers will be making the cross-country trip, and many of those students will be making their first trip away from Southern California.

“I’m very excited,” said third-year choir student Jillian Soldevilla, who said she’s been singing since she was just a baby. “I’ve always wanted to go to New York. That was like my dream as a kid to go and explore the big city.”

Members of the Jordan High School choir. Photo courtesy JJ Garcia.

Junior Zahira Lopez fell in love with singing when she was a little kid belting out Disney songs. Now as part of a choir, she’s learned how important teamwork is in creating a cohesive sound and putting on a great performance.

“Not just improving your own skills, but also team building with the rest of my classmates,” said Lopez. “As a team, we learn a lot from each other and through Mr. Garcia with the help of everyone around us.”

According to junior Kaylah Palomera, the chamber singers feel like one big family, which will make the opportunity even more special. Palomera was recruited to join choir by a friend who overheard her singing in history class, and she’s loved it ever since.

“When I’m singing, it feels so real,” Palomera explained. “I get to get my voice out, and it just feels so therapeutic as well. Just being with other women, because basically, this whole class is just women, it feels so nice being with other singers. And it feels like this choir, this group is like my family.”

In addition to the Jordan chamber singers, the J-Town band will also have the opportunity to perform at Carnegie Hall. They’ll be taking part in the National Band & Orchestra Fest just a few weeks prior.

The Jordan High School band will soon have an opportunity to perform at Carnegie Hall in New York City. Photo courtesy JJ Garcia.

Once the Panthers arrive in New York, they’ll get the chance to work with a composer-in-residence, performing a brand-new piece written just for the concert. They’ll get the chance to learn and perform alongside students from across the country, creating a unique blend of cultures and backgrounds in one of the most diverse cities in the world.

For choir director Garcia, that’s one of his primary goals as a teacher—allowing his students to broaden their perspectives and be exposed to new environments.

“I want them to see the world outside of just the four blocks that they’re living within,” Garcia said. “Having taught here for seven years, I have a lot of students who haven’t left North Long Beach. They kind of just stick with what they know. And my biggest thing is, I want them to be able to explore and see what is out there in the world. I want them to learn from those experiences and then bring it back into their community to help grow and develop it.”

The Jordan High School choir program is currently raising money for the trip to New York. Click here for more information and to support the fundraiser.