ARMA — A Northeast High School senior is planning for the trip of her young lifetime as she continues to hone the vocal skills that landed her an invitation to perform on the stage of Carnegie Hall.
Jessica Zamora has been putting in even more hours of rehearsing than normal as the Feb. 7 performance date nears.
Practicing her singing skills is nothing new for the 2016 Northeast senior class valedictorian who started singing as a preschooler and has perfected her voice to a level landing her the February performance on one of the world's most famous stages in New York City.
Zamora received the invitation to participate in the Carnegie Hall Honors Performance Series after being nominated by her Northeast High School music teacher Sara Firm. Part of the nomination process included submitting audition tracks of Zamora's previous performances.
"They initially had 18,000 nominations and narrowed that down to 750 young vocalists from around the globe that were actually invited," Firm said. That process started in September, she said.
Later in the fall Zamora was in the middle of a restaurant when she got word she was accepted for the Carnegie Hall experience.
"I just cried I was so happy," Zamora said. Her parents were ectastic and she immediately called her music teacher to share the exciting news with the one who submitted her nomination.
Zamora said the waitress taking care of the family heard the news and was so excited she shared an announcement over the restaurant's speaker system. While she had secured the invitation, the work for the Northeast senior had just begun.
"I had to raise about $2,000 to pay my way," she said. Zamora put her creativity to work over the fall making wreaths to sell and reached her goal.
She will be one of about 150 young women from around the globe singing in the women's choir as an alto II. The group will perform six songs with four of those being in a foreign language and two in English, Firm said.
"The pieces range classical to more contemporary," Firm said. Zamora said she has done songs in foreign languages before so that has not been a stumbling block for her preparations.
"I sung a number of pieces in German — I don't always know what they say but I enjoy singing them anyway," Zamora said. She loves all kinds of music but said her favorites are show tunes.
While the NYC trip will showcase her talent on a national stage, it is not the first recognition her voice has earned.
"I started belting out tunes when I was three and got a miniature piano as a present," Zamora said. She has participated in Pittsburg Idle competition since she was about 10 years old. She placed third one year and won the competition another year.
Zamora also has won regional school competitions and at the state level she qualified in ensemble and twice as a soloist in Kansas Music Educators Association competition, Firm said.
Firm, who teaches music in kindergarten through 12th grade, has had Zamora as a student since she was a seventh grader.
"She is an all-round talented kid but Jessica is one of the hardest working students I've seen," Firm said. "I'm excited for her and everyone in the district, all the teachers, are excited for and want to celebrate with her."
Firm plans to travel to New York City for her student's performance as do several of Zamora's family members. In addition to rehearsals once she gets to New York, Zamora will also have time for sightseeing and taking in a Broadway show.
While Zamora is a an accomplished and award winning vocalist, her longterm plans do not include a dream of performing. Instead, she plans to attend Albright College in Pennsylvania in the fall where she will use an academic scholarship valued at $120,000 to use earning a degree in forensic psychology.
After that she hopes to complete her master's degree and perhaps even earn a doctorate.
"I hope to do all that in eight years," Zamora said. "I want to be a forensic science psychologist and work for the FBI as a criminal profiler."
Firm said she has no doubt her hard working student musician can accomplish those goals.
— Mike Elswick is a staff writer for The Morning Sun. He can be emailed at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @ mike_elswick.