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Members of the Columbus Alternative High School choir will be in New York from April 12-15 to participate in a festival that will serve as both a competition and an educational experience.

The choir was invited to the Heritage Festival as a result of its showing at another event last year in Orlando, Florida, director Daryl Flemming said. Its superior rating made the trip to New York possible, he said.

"This educational program, if a school achieves a certain standard, then they get invited to the next higher level," Flemming said.

Originally, the choir was scheduled to perform and compete at Carnegie Hall, but the venue has been changed to Riverside Church in New York -- "also a wonderful acoustic environment," Flemming said.

The students are excited to make the trip.

"It's just so cool that we've gotten to do this in my senior year," said Margaret Olabode, a resident of the Northland area.

"It means so much to us," said Clintonville resident and choir president Julia Allwein. "It's all of our work coming to fruition."

"I was really grateful to be put at a school that really appreciates music," said Joyce Yirenkyi, a senior from Westerville.

While in New York, students will attend a Broadway show and "get to see the sights and sounds of Times Square," Flemming said.

In addition to the fundraising by students, parents and supporters to pay for the travel, Flemming said choir members have been working hard on their performance, focusing on creating "a balanced choral sound."

"It's been about blending our voices," said senior Benjamin Graham, a resident of Columbus' south side.

"Hopefully, they'll stand in front of the judges and get a superior rating," Flemming said. "It's a little nerve-wracking ... but it's really good for the kids on a social and emotional level. It builds group spirit and group morale.

"It's fun to get a focus and get the kids to work on a common goal."

The students will perform a variety of songs during the festival, including a piece in Latin, a Portuguese song in the original language and a traditional spiritual, Flemming said.

Marshon Shepard, who lives near the McGuffey Road school that attracts students from throughout Columbus, is a freshman choir member. He wasn't at the Orlando competition, but tried out for the group on the advice of a cousin who had a good experience as a member.

"It had high expectations," Marshon said. "I knew it was going to be a great experience."

He said he is looking forward not only to the tourist aspects of the trip but also performing and competing "in front of people who love what I love."