Marvin Ridge women’s ensemble gains national, international recognition

MARVIN – For the Marvin Ridge High School Women’s Ensemble, the phrase “music makes the world go ‘round” has taken on a whole new meaning.

The students have won awards in national choral competitions, traveled the country to perform in prestigious music festivals and gained international recognition thanks to their partnership with a sister school in China, all in the last four years.

Getting to share their gift and love for music with the world is something the young performers said has become one of the most important aspects of their high school career.

The Marvin Ridge High School Women’s Ensemble is a group of about 20 to 25 female students who audition and perform together throughout the year at schools, country clubs, malls and other venues. Under the direction of choral teacher Deborah Lutz, the ensemble also has set its own high bar through venturing beyond the community and making a mark both nationally and internationally.

Seniors Madeleine Cutrone, Jordan Hodges, Meghan Rutowski, Katherine Judge and Maddy Hardy have been a part of the ensemble since their freshman year and have seen what difference being able to express themselves through music has made in their own lives.

“To find yourself and be able to express yourself and not worry about being shy is the big thing we’ve gotten out of it,” Meghan said.

While exercising their musical talent and creativity, the group also has received accolades from national music critics. The ensemble placed first in the 2010 Heritage Music Festival, an annual national competition. The girls took a trip to Williamsburg, Va., where they sang three classical pieces for judges and were chosen among a pool of other women’s ensembles from across the United States.

After that victory, the group was invited to sing at Carnegie Hall as part of a larger ensemble of nationally recognized student performers. Ten students from the women’s ensemble traveled to New York City in April 2010 to perform at the prestigious music hall where the experience, the girls said, was like no other.

“It’s just something that you can’t put into words, an experience like that,” Jordan Hodges said. “So many world-renowned people have (performed) there … it’s something so incredible.”

The 2011-12 school year was a year of growth for the ensemble, as there were a handful of veteran members who left and new members who joined. So Lutz, the choral director, spent time working with the students, training them to gel as an ensemble.

“She’s so committed … it’s almost contagious,” Madeleine Cutrone said of Lutz. “It just makes you want to work even harder.”

The year of hard work paid off, the girls said, as this school year has seen the ensemble once again place first in a national competition, receive another invitation to perform at Carnegie Hall and perform for millions of viewers via a Chinese television network.

Marvin Ridge has a sister school in China and delegates from the school who visited the U.S. saw the women’s ensemble perform a song in Chinese during a Confucius Institute event in uptown Charlotte last fall. Impressed with the girls’ performance, the delegates invited them to perform again in a pre-recording aired on a national Chinese network. An estimated 400 million Chinese viewers watched the performance, the girls

“Opportunities to sing in places that aren’t our school are hard to come by,” Maddy Hardy said. “So this opportunity to sing for millions of people in a country that we’ve never been to, halfway across the world … the idea was a little hard to fathom that something so big could happen to us.”

The ensemble also traveled to New Orleans in April, where they competed again in the Heritage Music Festival. After a first-place win, the girls received another invitation to perform in Carnegie Hall, which the ensemble will do next year.

Although the girls are proud of all their accomplishments, the most important thing about being a part of the women’s ensemble is the bond they’ve developed with each other and with Lutz.

“We really can’t say enough about her,” Katherine Judge said. “She’s so easy to talk to, she’s always helping you … her room has become our second home.”

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