Practice, practice, practice

Published 9:16 pm Monday, February 24, 2014

It’s an old joke, a staple of New York City culture for generations — so long, in fact, that nobody is quite sure where or when it originated: How do you get to Carnegie Hall? Practice.

According to a 2009 article in The New York Times, many people think the radio, television and vaudeville comedian Jack Benny wrote the line, but there’s no evidence to support the assertion. The Times stated that the joke first appeared in print in the 1950s and passed along a story ascribing it to a “nameless elderly musician on the street.”

Wherever it came from, the joke is now part of the history of a hallowed performance venue and the lexicon of the city that never sleeps. For a Suffolk student, it’s also become part of her own story.

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Nansemond River High School junior Haley Maddrey had the chance of a lifetime — an opportunity that eludes all but the most practiced performers — when she headed to New York recently to perform with a national youth choir in the hallowed Carnegie Hall.

The 16-year-old alto was one of 267 high school voices in the choir, which had representatives from schools all over the world. The choir performed various numbers, she said, including “Skip to My Lou,” the Russian folk song “Veniki,” “Silent Devotion and Response” and “Shore on the Shining Night.”

Maddrey was encouraged to audition for the opportunity by NRHS chorus director Joleen Neighbours, who has an outstanding record of grooming young people for careers in the arts. And one of the ways Neighbours helps them achieve success in their endeavors is by teaching them the importance of practice.

Kudos to young Maddrey for her fine accomplishment. Suffolk can expect to hear more of her voice in the future.