Baltimore is a long commute from Reston, where Kate York lives. The 18-year-old senior at South Lakes High School had for years wanted to join the Jewish high school choral group HaZamir, but couldn’t justify the once-a-week drive.
That changed when the Zamir Choral Foundation started its Washington-area chapter.
York is one of 15 singers from Washington, Northern Virginia and suburban Maryland who auditioned at the chapter’s first meeting last June. Since September, they have been rehearsing every Sunday evening at the Jewish Community Center of Greater Washington in Rockville — a much shorter drive than Baltimore is from Reston.
Baltimore chapter alumnus Daniel Eisenberg conducts the singers, who range from eighth-graders to high school seniors.
“It was really long overdue for us to have a chapter here in Washington, so it’s very thrilling,” said Cheryl Troy, parent coordinator who was instrumental in helping to open the chapter. Her daughter Ariel, a junior at Melvin J. Berman Hebrew Academy, is a singer in the chapter. She previously sang for two years in the Baltimore chapter.
The Baltimore connection runs deep in the new Washington-area chapter. Troy’s son Aaron, 21, a student at Cornell University, is also an alumnus of the Baltimore chapter, whose conductor, Erika Pardes Schon, helped Troy start the Washington chapter.
“We have had a few joint rehearsals with our chapter in Baltimore since we’re so close,” Troy said. “We’re actually very lucky to be so close to another chapter that we can easily get together and have a joint rehearsal.”
The rehearsals will culminate in an April 3 concert at Carnegie Hall in New York City. The final rehearsals in preparation for the concert will take place at the HaZamir Festival, held at the Hudson Valley Resort and Spa in Kerhonksen, N.Y., starting March 31. HaZamir singers representing all HaZamir chapters, along with their conductors, coordinators and parent chaperones attend the festival.
There are 385 singers, 25 chapters in the United States and six in Israel.
“I’m so excited [about the Carnegie Hall concert]. I’m also very nervous, but I’m incredibly excited. It’s really a once in a lifetime opportunity,” York said.
Troy said that HaZamir draws singers from every Jewish denomination, and the unaffiliated.
Said York: “This is such a unique way for us to express our Judaism. HaZamir is a youth group that’s all of these different movements, combined with the common purpose of singing, which is something that I really never even thought would be so powerful, but it really is.”