Packaging for peerless experience

Published 9:18 pm Thursday, November 29, 2018

A Suffolk high schooler has been selected to perform on a world-class stage, and her family is getting into the holiday spirit to get her there.

Sydney McCown, 15, is a sophomore at Nansemond River High School and a member of the school’s chorus. She said she’s always enjoyed singing, and she loved being part of orchestra back in middle school.

“I like being able to express myself in a way I haven’t before, and singing lets me do that,” Sydney said.

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She recently qualified to take her singing to the next level in the coming new year. Joleen Neighbours, NRHS director and Suffolk Public Schools fine arts facilitator, nominated her for the 2019 High School Honors Performance Series at Carnegie Hall in New York City.

From Feb. 7 and 11, she will have the opportunity to rehearse with master conductors and other accomplished high school students from across the country and around the world.

“This will look amazing on my resume, and it will give me more experience with other singers (my age),” Sydney said.

But it’s an expensive adventure. The family received her acceptance at the end of October and need to raise about $2,000 by mid-January at the latest, according to Sydney’s mother, Wendy McCown.

“If I had a year to save up for this, we’d be fine,” her husband, Robert McCown, said.

But time is not on their side, so Wendy is rallying her husband and five other daughters to raise money, specifically by wrapping Christmas gifts.

Their original plan was to offer gift wrapping for NRHS teachers and ask for donations, but the school informed them that it wouldn’t be possible because this isn’t fundraising for a Virginia High School League activity or a school sponsored event.

Now the family is looking for local businesses and organizations where they could set up a table. Sydney’s family would provide the paper, bows, gift bags, shirt boxes and whatever else is needed.

All people would need to do is bring their gifts for wrapping in exchange for small donation of $2 or $3, according to Wendy McCown.

“I hate asking for money flat out,” she said. “I wanted to do something where we could provide a service in exchange for donations.”

The family is also asking for any businesses or generous individuals that may be interested in sponsoring Sydney’s journey.

“Help a student with a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to sing at Carnegie Hall,” Robert McCown said, adding that he and his wife are grateful for any support people can provide.

To help Sydney McCown sing at Carnegie Hall, email