High school student to perform at Carnegie Hall
By NICK WOOTEN
Nov. 18, 2017
SHREVEPORT, La. (AP) — Janae Williams sang one day inside Huntington High School's empty and naturally lit auditorium — calling on the Holy Spirit like she's done since she was a young girl in church.
Come Feb. 4, concertgoers at the famed Carnegie Hall will hear the 16-year-old's voice call out. Williams was selected for the 2018 High School Honors Performance Series for vocal and instrumental musicians at Carnegie Hall.
Program finalists hail from all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia; six provinces of Canada; and Australia, China, Hong Kong, New Zealand, Qatar, South Korea and the United Kingdom. Some finalists will perform at the Sydney Opera House in Australia.
"I don't think it's really sunk in yet," she said of being chosen. "I was excited."
Williams started singing at age 4 as a member of the Tots Choir at Calvary Missionary Baptist Church in Shreveport, where her father is pastor. But she became passionate about singing about six years ago during the Yazzy summer workshop put on by the Theatre of the Performing Arts of Shreveport.
She originally chose to focus on acting that summer.
"It was so cool how all the stuff came together. All the people singing in the choir and how the people would dance," Williams said.
To audition for the High School Honors Performance Series at Carnegie Hall, Williams submitted a digital audio recording. Her choir director, Arnese Brass, and her brother Joe Gant helped Williams record her song, "The Sweetest Flower That Blows," based on a poem by Frederick Peterson. She used her father's church as the recording studio.
"It was the first place we thought of," Williams said.
She sent her recording in July and learned in late October that she had been selected. Williams' best friend and father surprised her with the news during a prayer meeting at church on Halloween. She'll be recognized Nov. 14 by the Shreveport City Council.
"It's so exciting," she said of performing at Carnegie.
Williams' selection is a point of pride for Caddo Parish's Huntington High and the school's choir program, said Brass and Assistant Principal Teniesha Mahoney.
"Having her here is an inspiration to other students," Mahoney said. "She's an example of the hard work and dedication that's required to go to the next level. Performing at Carnegie Hall is a once-in-a-lifetime experience."
"I believe this will inspire other students to be a part of this choral journey and motivate them to be a part of choral music on a national level," Brass added in an email.
After Williams graduates high school, she plans to attend Southern University in Baton Rouge to study mass communications. She isn't quite sure what she wants to do, but the idea of being a motivational speaker appeals, she said.
She's not sure if she'll continue her choir singing, but she'd like to.
"I want to but I don't know," she said. "Probably so."