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Collin County kids to sing at Carnegie Hall
Dan Eakin/Staff Photo - Six Collin County students who study voice at the George Variames Music Studio in Allen will be performing on Saturday at the famous Carnegie Hall in New York City. They are, from left, standing, Shyama Nithiananda, Stevie Michel, Shelby Gyger, Kayla Perkins and George Variames (instructor); and Grant Bower, seated. Not shown is Brenna Whitten.
About 50 years ago, a man asked a hippie on a New York street, "How do you get to Carnegie Hall?"
The hippie replied, "Practice, man. Practice."
That's exactly what six Collin County kids have been doing for the past several years.
They won first place in a division or category in Golden Voices, an international competition, and as a result will be singing at the famous facility on Saturday. Their appearances are scheduled for 1:30 p.m. in Carnegie Hall's Weill Recital Hall.
Grant Bower, Kayla Perkins, Shelby Gyger, Stevie Michel, Brenna Whitten and Shyama Nithiananda are all voice students at the George Variames Music Studio in Allen. Variames, president of the Plano Music Teachers Association, had four of those students to be among several who performed Sunday afternoon at an elegant recital sponsored by the association at Steinway Hall in Plano.
"These students have been studying voice with me for several years," Variames said, "and are very special because they worked very hard to get to this point. It (singing at Carnegie Hall) will be a monumental experience for them."
Grant Bower will be 14 years old Friday. The next day, he will be singing, "Vittoria, vittoria, mio core," at Carnegie Hall.
But singing at Carnegie Hall is getting to be an old hat for Grant. He sang there last year after winning an award in his category. In 2010, he sang at Carnegie Hall with the Collin County Community Choir, which had won the right to perform there.
Neither Greg nor Kim Bower expected their third child to be a musician or an actor. Their first child, Samantha, now 23, and second, Zachary, who is almost 21, are both athletic, with an interest in volleyball and football, respectively.
"Neither his father nor I sang or acted," Kim said. "When Grant was two years old, he loved to perform and he would imitate the singers on American Idol. He has been a blessing to us with his voice and his true love for singing and acting."
Grant went to private school until fifth grade and has since been home schooled. He plans to enroll at McKinney Boyd High School as a freshman in the fall.
After high school, he has dreams of attending New York University and ending up on Broadway.
People who know Grant best believe he just might make it.
Other students of Variames have also expressed a desire to one day sing and perform on Broadway, including Kayla Perkins, a senior at McKinney Boyd.
"After high school, I hope to major in musical theater in college," she said. "I hope to be on Broadway some day."
The daughter of Steve and Deb Perkins has been taking voice lessons from Variames for five years. She will be singing, "Don't Rain on My Parade," at the big event Saturday.
As for appearing at Carnegie Hall, she said, "I am beyond excited."
Shelby Gyger, 16, an Allen High School sophomore, has been taking voice lessons from Variames since she was seven years old. She is the daughter of Michael and Julie Gyger.
She will be singing, "I Don't Know How to Love Him," from Gypsy, the Musical.
"I'm excited and a little nervous to sing at Carnegie Hall," she said.
Shyama Nithiananda, 13,daughter of Shiva and Kim Nithiananda, will be singing for the second time at Carnegie Hall.
"I was nervous before I got there before," she said, "but once I started singing, I wasn't nervous anymore."
Shyama, an eighth grader at Schimelpfenig Middle School in Plano, will be singing, "Part of Your World," from the Little Mermaid.
Brenna Whitten, 14, daughter of Greg and Melinda Whitten, will be singing, "What I Did For Love." A student at Faubion Middle School in McKinney, she has been taking voice lessons with Variames for the past six years.
"I feel really blessed to have the opportunity to sing at Carnegie Hall," she said.
Stevie Michel, 11, daughter of Steve and Elena Michel, is in the sixth grade at Covenant School. She has been studying voice for only two years with Variames and will be singing, "Reflection," from Mulan at Carnegie Hall.
"I feel excited," she said.