Lynette Carr-Hicks has found numerous performing opportunities for the Uniondale High School Show Choir, from the Today Show to Steve Harvey. The choir has won awards and contests, taking first place at the 2018 Fame Show Choir Nationals Championship Series in Chicago.
But perhaps the most satisfying—and unexpected—performing opportunity was the Fifteen Days of Light program at Carnegie Hall on Sunday, December 18.
It all happened because of Deputy Town Supervisor Dorothy L. Goosby, and the quick action of philanthropist Robert F. Smith.
Since 2016, Smith has served as board chairman for Carnegie Hall the first African American ever in that position. Approaching the 2022 holiday season, he combined forces with prominent Black and Jewish leaders to address recent trends of anti-Semitism in the United States.
With Elisha Wiesel (son of Nobel Peace laureate Elie Wiesel), Dr. W. Franklyn Richardson (chairman of the Conference of National Black Churches), and Rabbi Shmuley Boteach (founder and CEO of The World Values Network), Smith mounted Fifteen Days of Light.
The “fifteen days” refers to the eight days of Hanukkah and the seven days of Kwanzaa. The campaign kicked off with a full-page ad in the New York Times on Dec. 10, proclaiming the purpose of upcoming program, scheduled for the first day of Hanukkah.
Meanwhile, at the invitation of Deputy Supervisor Goosby, the Show Choir performed for the 21st Town of Hempstead Kwanzaa celebration on Friday, Dec. 16.
Smith happened to view a video of that celebration. On Saturday, Dec. 17, he contacted Carr-Hicks via Goosby’s office. Carr-Hicks assembled her group, and on that Sunday, the Show Choir and its director found themselves walking through the doors of the famed 131-year-old concert venue.
How the choir responded so fast .
The Show Choir could leap into action so rapidly because their dedicated years with Carr-Hicks had equipped them to do so.
“I have a traveling crew that goes to these events, and all but one could come to Carnegie Hall,” Carr-Hicks said. “The kids come to performances in their track suits and bring their own costumes in a bag.”
The students were therefore prepared for a short-notice event. With the aid of Uniondale High’s band leader, Carr-Hicks chartered a school bus and driver, recruited the group’s regular make-up artists for 11 a.m. on Sunday at the high school, got the students on the bus a 1 p.m. Sunday, and despite traffic around Rockefeller Center, had the Show Choir onstage for the sound check at 3 p.m.
A thrilling experience
All the effort to get to Carnegie Hall paid off royally.
“It was such a great experience, a wonderful event,” said Carr-Hicks. “Mr. Robert Smith, a man of such great stature, came to the hall outside the dressing room and the kids were just standing there, looking at him. But he said how much he appreciated it and he was so humble and so nice.”
Jadon O’Brien, a choir member and graduating senior, recalled that during rehearsal on the stage, “We were very serious because it’s a serious thing to perform at Carnegie Hall.”
He credited those who attended the event with helping dispel the singers’ nerves.
“During the performance, we had all the energy from the audience,” O’Brien said, “and they appreciated the music, so we understood each other. That enhanced the performance a lot.”
The Show Choir sang “Amazing Grace” and stood in awe while they heard Smith, Weisel, New York City Mayor Eric Adams, and Rev. Al Sharpton speak.
But one more surprise was in store.
“The Jewish choir couldn’t make it,” said Carr-Hicks, “so we sang ‘Bidi-Bom’ to end the program, a capella, and got a standing ovation.”
“Bidi-Bom” is a Hanukkah song that the choir had learned, and once again, the long hours of rehearsal prepared them to meet the moment. Jadon O’Brien conducted his fellow singers.
Afterward, said O’Brien, “It was a great feeling because so many people congratulated us and said we did a great job. So, performing at Carnegie Hall for the first time, it was a thrilling experience.”
The choir’s triumph was all the more praiseworthy because Carr-Hicks was absent for health reasons during September and October. While she was out, the students never stopped rehearsing.
“The kids just went through their regular rehearsals as if I was right in front of them,” said Carr-Hicks. “The whole event was just incredible.”