By Pam Robinson
Hillary May and Melanie Davis, juniors at Mount Vernon High School, or MVHS, started a bucket list in childhood. They recall composing together a song expressing their ardent desire to someday sing in New York City. The 17-year-olds just recently fulfilled that dream.
Through video audition, they competed against student vocalists from across the US, Australia, Canada and the UK to achieve this honor. During their first trip ever to “The Big Apple,” they each were featured in solo performances at the New York premiere of composer Christopher Tin’s “Calling All Dawns.” Distinguished Concerts International New York, or DCINY, presented the production on Sunday afternoon, April 7, 2013, in Avery Fisher Hall at the esteemed Lincoln Center.
A 2011 Grammy award winning work, “Calling All Dawns” presents 12 movements, each in a different language. Only ten soloists performed in its New York premiere: Hillary and Melanie were two of four high school soloists; the remaining soloists were professionals. Hillary sang the part of the “young girl” in “Mado Kara Mieru,” a Japanese song about the seasons, while Melanie sang “Se É Pra Vir Que Venha,” a Portugese song portraying an older woman’s review of her life.
MVHS was well represented at the New York premiere. A a total of 22 high school vocalists, including Hillary and Melanie, traveled to New York with their mentor Dana Taylor, director of vocal music at MVHS. Taylor explained that the 22 MVHS vocalists joined with 158 additional high school vocalists representing national (California, Pennsylvania and Vermont) and international (Australia and the UK) communities.
Although the young singers spent a great deal of time in rehearsal after they arrived Thursday evening, April 4, until their performance on Sunday afternoon, April 7, they managed to walk in Central Park, ride the Staten Island Ferry, and roam to other venues in New York.
For example, Hillary and her mom, Donett May, took in the Broadway musical, “Wicked,” the story of the Wicked Witch of the West and Glinda the Good before Dorothy dropped in on Oz. “It was just amazing,” Hillary says. For Melanie, breakfast at Tiffany’s with her sister Lauren was a highlight of the trip. “It was just like the movie,” Melanie comments.
Early on, Melanie made her musical debut at home when she sang with her Nana to the guitar accompaniment of her brother Tom, now a musician in Scotland. She has enjoyed vocal music lessons with Shay Barnett for the past two years as well. Yet, both Hillary and Melanie attribute much of their success to the inspiration of their Mount Vernon Junior High School choir director, Ellie Moore.
“She got me hooked [on choir],” Hillary states. “Mrs. Moore was a junior high idol,” Melanie adds.
That junior high choir experience formed a lasting bond of friendship between Hillary and Melanie. The two are inseparable now even though they’ve almost always been within walking distance of each other’s homes in Mount Vernon. Melanie still smiles as she mentions the first time the she and Hillary met. “Hillary brought over her rabbit to show me,” Melanie recalls. “Girls always love their animals.”
Although Hillary plans to become a surgeon, she knows music will always enrich her life. “I want to continue singing in some way, like with my church choir,” she says. “I will never give up music.” On the other hand, Melanie wants a career in music education, preferably as a high school choir director.
Hillary is the daughter of Eric and Donett May and the big sister to Ellen and Jackson. Melanie is the youngest child of Mike and Diane Davis and enjoys time with her older siblings, Lauren and Tom.
By Pam Robinson
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