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At Age 20, Jacksonville Children's Chorus Raising The Performance Bar

A European tour and a concert featuring a Broadway megastar are on the agenda this year for some of Northeast Florida’s youngest singers.

The Jacksonville Children’s Chorus is celebrating its 20th year by giving its young performers world-class experiences — and there’s still time for more kids to audition.

Kristen Chenoweth is perhaps best known for her role as Glinda in the Broadway musical “Wicked.”

Chenoweth’s powerful pipes have taken her from the stage to movies and TV shows like the smash hit “Glee.” And though she’s busy touring the world these days, this November Kristin Chenoweth is coming to sing with a bunch of teenagers at the Jacksonville Children’s Chorus fall concert.  

Chorus member Brooke Stephens says she hopes she gets a chance to talk to the guest star.

“I’d just love to tell her how much of an inspiration she’s definitely been to me throughout the years,” Stephens said.

Artistic and Executive Director Darren Dailey says the number-one reason he brought Chenoweth to Jacksonville is to inspire the singers. But her star power is also helping the nonprofit move tickets to its big fall show.

“We want the community to come hear her and then hear us and say, ‘I knew about the Jacksonville Children’s Chorus, and I’ve heard of them,’” Dailey said, “‘but I’ve never heard them, and, wow, they’re really good.’”

To get good, the kids start the year with a weeklong summer boot camp where they learn new music and choreography.

Over the season, Dailey says they’ll memorize 37 pieces of music in various languages. Middle and high schoolers are expected to read music. He says, it’s all part of his decision to up the artistic standards with two decades in the chorus’s past.

“I’m very proud to be here in Jacksonville, and I want our city to be proud that they have a world-class children’s chorus, and that when people think of Jacksonville they think of a great arts community that has one of the best children’s choirs in the country,” he said.

Twelve-year-old Amanda Gondeck says she’s become a better singer after a year in the choir.

“Just getting to interact with other people who share the same hobby as I do. It just feels great, and I just love how the songs turn out at the end because they’re always so beautiful, it’s like I’m singing with angels,” Gondeck said.

The chorus is holding its last round of auditions for this year through Sept. 3 in Orange Park, San Marco and Downtown.

Jessica Palombo supervises local news gathering and production, podcasts and web editorial content for WJCT News, ADAPT and Jacksonville Today. She is an award-winning writer and journalist with bylines including NPR, Experience Magazine, and The Gainesville Sun. She has a master’s degree in broadcast and digital journalism from Syracuse University and is an alumna of the University of Florida. A nearly lifelong resident of Jacksonville, she considers herself lucky to be raising her own children in her hometown. Follow Jessica Palombo on Twitter: @JaxJessicaP