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Polson High School student sets sights on Carnegie Hall

by KRISTI NIEMEYER
Hagadone News Network | November 1, 2023 12:00 AM

Polson High School junior Bethany Butler has wanted to sing in Carnegie Hall since she was 6 years old. 

“I love Carnegie Hall not only because everybody, like anybody who wants to sing, wants to sing at Carnegie Hall,” she says. “I also love it because of the history behind it and so many amazing singers and amazing performers have performed on that stage.”

So when she received a notification from WorldStrides that she had been nominated to perform in the Honors Performance Series at Carnegie Hall, she decided to submit an audition.

She filled out the application form that included her reasons for wanting to participate in the program. Then she retreated to her bedroom and recorded an Italian aria that she had performed for District and State Music Festival last year: “O cessate di piagarmi” by Alessandro Scarlatti.

She had to sing it in Italian without accompaniment, “just cold turkey,” but fortunately she knew the piece, and it was on the list of works suggested for the audition.

She sent in her recording Sept. 5 and her acceptance notice arrived Sept. 29 when she was in the middle of choir class. The first person she told was her choir teacher, and the second was her brother, freshman Tristan Butler, because “he's been my number-one supporter in my choir and singing journey since, for like as long as I can remember.”

Her parents, speech and debate coaches Brett and Melissa Butler, were manning the concession stand when she told them the news. Her mom “started jumping up and down,” and her dad “read the whole email and goes, ‘you're singing at Carnegie Hall.’ And he started crying.”

Bethany will be in New York Feb. 7-11, and during her stay she’ll visit some of the Big Apple’s most iconic sites, including the Empire State Building, Times Square and Rockefeller Center. She’ll be singing in a choir with around 150 other kids from across the United States, Canada and Guam, who rehearse together twice before the performance.

“You get to meet the conductor, and you're trying to get used to the acoustics of Carnegie Hall because it's huge,” she said. After the concert, choir members will take a post-performance yacht ride on the Hudson River.

Butler is clearly at ease on stage and has pursued singing and acting for 11 years. She’s performed in Port Polson Players’ productions and school shows as well, participated in choir, and is team manager for Polson High’s speech and debate team. She’s competing in dramatic oral interpretation and informative speaking this season. Conveniently, her informative speaking topic is Broadway, “which I can heavily talk about.”

Singing has been important to her “for as long as I can remember. No matter if it's in the car and I just hear a song on the radio or if it's a piece that I've performed before or I've heard –anything, I will sing.”

Now begins the hard work of raising $5,500 to cover the $2,500 required for the program, plus airfare, food and spending money for the five days she’ll spend in New York City.

She welcomes donations of any kind — cash, check or contributions to her GoFundMe account (https://gofund.me/644583fd), which had accumulated $1,625 from 33 donors as of Oct. 31. 

She’ll spend the next few months learning the songs that the choir will sing on one of the most famous stages in the world.

“To perform on that exact stage where many Broadway stars and many music icons have performed is a dream come true,” she says. “I can't wait. It’s going to be super, super fun.