UNC Asheville’s musical term in office reached the 10-year mark when the UNC Asheville Singers, 25 students directed by Associate Professor of Music Melodie Galloway, performed in December 2016 for a holiday gathering of White House staff and their friends and families.
Galloway, now chair of the Music Department, began the tradition her first year on the faculty, making phone calls to learn the process of applying and successfully auditioning to sing at the White House. A new audition recording must be submitted each year and hundreds of submissions are reviewed each year by a different White House musical judge. And every year since 2007, the UNC Asheville Singers have earned a trip to perform at the nation’s capital.
“When you go through all the security and everything at the front door, it’s ‘Oh my God, we’re actually here,’ said Gary Freedman, a junior who made his second trip to Washington, D.C. with the choir. “It really kicks in the moment you actually sing. It’s quite an honor.”
For senior Gabby Feinstein who made her first trip, the setting, and contributing to the ambiance of such an important historical site was a big part of the experience. “Every inch of the walls was covered with immaculate Christmas decorations – taking all of that in and being able to give back with music and watching people’s faces light up was just so rewarding and meaningful.”
Even after 10 White House appearances and meeting President and First Lady Obama in 2012, the trip continues to be exciting for Galloway. “The first day, we went to the Walter Reed Military Hospital and sang in the Warriors’ Café, which is where the Wounded Warriors eat, and that is always quite an honor. It’s the little bit that we can give back and show our gratitude,” she said. She also arranged other Washington D.C. activities for the students, including a tour of the Capitol for the students with U.S. Representative David Price of North Carolina’s fourth Congressional District.
Senior Jeremy Gage was especially grateful to get a tour guided personally by a member of Congress, and also for his fellow singers. “In a choir like this where we focus so hard in rehearsal, you don’t really get much time to get to know other people in the choir. The camaraderie we all had on the bus and in the hotels at night and getting to know everyone was very memorable. It was a lot of fun, a great trip.”
*photos by Jim Canavan