Senior Gavin McDonnell was recently accepted into the prestigious All-National Choir of the National Association for Music Education (NAfME). He is one of only 12 students who successfully auditioned from the state of Georgia. Selection to the All-National choir is considered one of the finest achievements available to high school choral students in the US and Gavin has earned this honor for two years in a row.
Singing since he was a toddler, Gavin took his musical career to the next level when he joined the Georgia Boy Choir in fourth grade. He performed with the group for three years and that had a significant impact on his venture into classical singing and his love for choir music.
Gavin’s brother Ethan McDonnell was accepted into the choir as an alternate. He was honored as one of the finalists last year. “For Gavin and Ethan to be selected two years in a row clearly sets them apart as two of the top high school musicians in the country,” says Dr. Marcus Miller, GAC’s Director of Choral and Vocal Activities. The choral program itself is no less noteworthy. They were invited to perform at Carnegie Hall in March 2019.
Gavin and Ethan first had to earn admission into the Georgia All-State Chorus, which involved multiple rounds of auditions to demonstrate various musical skills and knowledge, to be eligible to audition for the All-National Choir. (Gavin has won All-State Chorus for five years in a row.) Students submitted unedited, unaccompanied video auditions to be considered for the choir. The All-National Honor Ensembles are comprised of concert band, symphony orchestra, mixed choir, and jazz ensembles.
“To be in the top two to three hundred choir singers in the country is a huge honor, and it feels absolutely surreal to be able to participate in an event like this again,” says Gavin. He will perform at Walt Disney World’s Coronado Springs Resort in Orlando, Florida, November 25-28, 2018 along with other top student choristers in the country. Internationally renowned director Dr. Amanda Quist, Associate Professor and Chair of the Conducting, Organ, and Sacred Music Department at Westminster Choir College, will conduct. Says Gavin, “My favorite aspect of doing specialized choirs like this has always been learning from directors who are the best in the nation. Every director comes at music from a different viewpoint, and they all have different knowledge I can pull from and use in future choirs I am in.”
“GAC is truly is a place where students can thrive in the arts,” says Miller. GAC’s award-winning arts program is unique and it is one of the few private schools in Georgia to offer such breadth of program in visual and performing arts (students have over 40 electives to choose from). The last couple of years have produced 22 state championships in theater and dance; three state Shuler awards (Georgia’s version of the Tony Awards) and multiple honorable mentions; superior ratings for marching Spartans, orchestra, choir, concert, symphonic, and jazz bands; and multiple awards in visual arts, including a National Medal in the Scholastic Art and Writing Award.
Gavin’s future certainly looks bright. He plans to go to college in the fall and major in either Music Business or Conducting. He’s somewhat torn about his career, hoping to end up as a music producer or become a choir director. “One of the dreams I have had is to direct All-State and choirs similar to that one day, because they have made such a large impact on my life that I want to give back and do the same for other kids.” For now, the one thing he is certain of is that he will join the choir at whichever college he goes to, and will continue to sing for as long as he’s living.