Western Nebraska Observer - Observations all along the line - Kimball & the Southern Panhandle First

By Daniel Thompson

Hunsaker to sing at Carnegie Hall in February


For the Observer

Hunsaker will be the second Kimball resident to sing in Carnegie Hall in one year's time.

In Kimball, and most likely around the nation as a whole, it is extremely rare to hear of a high school student who has been hand picked to sing in Carnegie Hall in New York City. However, recently, Kimball High School senior Courtney Hunsaker achieved such a feat, much to the pride of her family, community and her music teacher David Thelen.

According to Thelen, it started out with a simple application process submitted to a program that picks students throughout the nation to group together in the form of a mass choir to sing in Carnegie Hall.

"We nominated her, and she sent in her application. She had to have a solo. She sang her solo that she sang for district contest last year. We submitted the tape, and they selected her, which was really quite exciting," Thelen said.

Thelen, who sang in Carnegie Hall this past year, had previously been asked if he had a student that he'd like to nominate for the program and instantly he knew that Hunsaker was his pick.

"Right now, in choir, she's our strongest singer. I know she's developed to where she has a very nice voice. When they asked if I had somebody I wanted to nominate, she came right to my mind. I asked her, 'Would you be interested talking it over with your folks and what they think?' The next day, she came back and said, 'Yep. Let's go for it,'" Thelen said.

Leading up to the concert, Thelen states that he'll work closely with Hunsaker on getting her parts hammered down once the music arrives.

"Right now, we haven't gotten a list of what the music is. As soon as we do that we'll sit down with her and work with her on it. She'll do a lot on her own too. She's that kind of a student. She's very thorough," Thelen said.

However, Thelen admits that, though he can prepare her by way of helping her to learn the music, there is no way he could ever prepare her for the feeling of standing on the stage of Carnegie Hall.

"I'm going to let that be a surprise for her. She's had some really neat things singing-wise, and she's experienced that. But when you step in that hall with the acoustics and stuff, you can't be prepared for that," Thelen said.

He is also absolutely confident that Hunsaker's talent will serve her well when she takes the stage with the choir of other students in February.

"Courtney will represent us well. She will do a super job. We can be very proud of what she will be doing there, because she will be exemplary as far as her behavior and her preparation. I know that. When they talk about being from Kimball, they'll sit there and say, 'Oh, Kimball. Yeah...' And that's important. We need it. That's the biggest thing: the recognition for the community and the school," Thelen said.

For Hunsaker, the achievement left her astonished when thinking about the fact that she'll step on the stage that many talented musicians have performed on.

"I'm really excited. Carnegie Hall is famous for being a gathering place for the best of the best of musicians. I'm ecstatic that I get to go sing there," Hunsaker said.

Though the time since finding out that she had been chosen nearly a month ago has been spent mostly on planning transportation, medical releases and the necessary documentation to make the trip possible, Hunsaker looks forward to going to New York City, where her aunt lives, and being able to take time to appreciate the history that it holds.

"It's going to be more exciting this time, because the tours are with tour directors who know what they're talking about. Last time I was there, it was just going to see the sights," Hunsaker said.

Although Hunsaker is perfectly calm when thinking about singing with the choir in Carnegie Hall for now, she admits that come showtime, she will have some nerves. However, she states that any nervousness will fade away in the joy of performing with other students and practicing with the choir and the directors throughout her time in the big city.

"I've done a lot of these sort of you spend all day practicing and then at the end you have a concert type of thing, because we do a lot of those through the school and schools around here. They're just fun, because everyone who's there wants to be there as much as you do. The directors are always great, and everyone's trying. For performing, I'm not nervous, because it's just going to be such an experience," Hunsaker said.

Hunsaker also admits that it's somewhat intimidating to be chosen as part of a select group of students throughout the nation to take the stage in February.

"It's very intimidating. It's the whole small fish in a very big pond. You kind of get used to being kind of awesome here in little Kimball, and I'm going to go sing with people that are just as good if not way better than I am.," Hunsaker said.

The achievement of singing in Carnegie Hall is not the only recognition that Hunsaker has received in her senior year at the local high school. Hunsaker was also selected as one of six students chosen as the October 2013 Believers and Achievers throughout the state of Nebraska by U.S. Bank and the Nebraska School Activities Association.

"Our guidance counselor and principal at the school had to nominate a student. They nominated me, and there was an application. I filled it out and submitted it and was selected," Hunsaker said.

For Hunsaker, it's inspiring to see that her hard work over her high school career has not been in vain and that others notice how hard she has tried.

"It's awesome. I have worked really hard with my grades and being involved so that I can be eligible for those sorts of things. I'm happy that it's all coming to fruition, and it's going better than planned," Hunsaker said.

However, Hunsaker doesn't let all her success go to her head.

"I'm trying to make sure that I don't get too prideful, because for every believer and achiever in Nebraska there's another one in Kansas and in every other of the 50 states. It's awesome, and I'm honored that it was me," Hunsaker said.

Looking to the future, Hunsaker doesn't quite know exactly what she'd like to do besides go to college and continue to be as active as she can with music throughout her lifetime, setting broad goals for the time being.

"My main goal really is to go to college and explore lots of different things and do my best, and from there find what I would consider a career that I would enjoy for the rest of my life," Hunsaker said.

However, Hunsaker knows that no matter what she does, she will be successful in her endeavors.

"I am open to go wherever the wind takes me. If it brings me back to Kimball, I will gladly come back to Kimball. If it doesn't, then I will make my life successful elsewhere. I firmly believe that people can succeed wherever they are if they are determined to. No matter what I choose to do with my life or where I choose to do it, success is going to come, because I'm determined to make my life successful," Hunsaker said.

Anyone interested in donating to Hunsaker's trip to Carnegie Hall can do so by making a check out to Courtney Hunsaker and taking it to First Tier Bank.


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