Dreams do come true

Festival Choral of Michiana

Lenette Votava, marketing professional in the Office of Information Technologies, has been singing since she was a little girl. With a fondness for musicals, her devotion to her craft has led her to some impressive venues and events, most notably the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts’ We Have A Dream Choral Festival, held June 18. Her participation in this tribute to the 60th anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech began with her joining the South Bend Symphonic Choir in 2017.

“One of my co-workers was a member of the choir and had been telling me I needed to join,” recalled Votova. “Well, when she said that the choir was planning to sing at Carnegie Hall for the second time in April 2019, I thought why not? It was an opportunity of a lifetime.”

Lenette Votava
Lenette Votava

The South Bend Symphonic Choir joined with the Elkhart Community Chorus to form the Festival Chorus of Michiana, directed by Notre Dame alumnus Juan-Carlos Alarcon, director of the Elkhart Community Chorus, and Marvin V. Curtis, conductor of the South Bend Symphonic Choir. An invitation to participate in the choral festival was extended by Eugene Rogers, the artistic director and conductor for the event. The Michiana chorus joined other choral ensembles in Washington, D.C.

“It was an amazing experience to sing for Dr. Rogers and meet many other people from other choirs,” Votava said. “But I guess nothing beats stepping onto the stage at the Kennedy Center. I was both nervous and excited — especially after months of rehearsing these pieces on our own prior to the trip, then wanting to do my best for Dr. Rogers once we were all together.”

The trip wasn’t all work and no play. “We worked hard rehearsing prior to the concert, and in between rehearsals, we got to do some sightseeing,” Votava said. The choral members visited a number of D.C. venues including the Museum of Natural History, the National Museum of African American History and Culture, the Lincoln Memorial, and an illuminated walking tour of the Korean, Vietnam, national World War II, African American Civil War, Emancipation Monument, Eisenhower and Jefferson memorials and the Washington Monument.

“The day after the concert, we had one more event to attend. All the choirs were invited to a ceremony at the Martin Luther King memorial. We sang parts of some of the concert pieces, and each choir received a floral wreath to place in front of the memorial. It was a very moving experience, and one I’ll always remember,” she said.

For Votava, singing at the iconic D.C. venue was something she never thought she would have the opportunity to do. “When I think of all of the prestigious artists and groups who have performed at the Kennedy Center, I guess I can also say I have performed there to honor the life of a great man. Not only was this an amazing experience, but very humbling as well.”

The Festival Chorus of Michiana will perform “United in Purpose,” a musical celebration of the 60th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech on August 26 at 7 p.m. at the Potawatomi Park pavilion in South Bend. This free concert is part of the 2023 Community Foundation Performing Arts Series.