Singing their little hearts out

Franklin School choir continues to perform at world-renowned venues

The choir from Franklin Elementary School in North Bergen has performed at venues such as Madison Square Garden and Radio City Music Hall in New York. Under the direction of Dr. Armine Irving, students are prepared for yet another season of performances at reputable theaters, festivals, and arenas.
Irving, currently in her 13th year as director, has spent the past five years training her chorus to perform at professional levels. Her students have served as the official performers of the national anthem for the New York Liberty, a member of the WNBA.

“It takes a lot of courage to get up there in front of thousands of people you don’t know.” – Principal Peter Clark
Her group has also participated in state-level competitions and festivals, including the High Note Festival in Cedar Grove.

Demanding schedule

The Franklin Choir is set to perform for the second straight year as the opening act for the “Radio City Christmas Spectacular” next month at the Radio City Music Hall.
The group was invited back after the success of last year’s performance, which was originally earned after Irving submitted an audition tape.
“The kids did such a great job we were invited back,” said Irving, who added that the students will perform “Carol of the Bells” in a three-part harmony.
“It was overwhelming,” Irving said of the performance. “I myself never sang at age 12 at Radio City.”
Irving selected roughly 65 students from an audition pool of 300 students within grades five through eight. Interested students must make sacrifices in order to prepare to perform at prestigious venues such as Radio City and Madison Square Garden.
“I was speechless when I started,” said Michael Samaniego, an eighth grader.
“I was nervous at first,” continued Samaniego, “but as I got used to [performing], I got better and better.”
Other students echoed Samaniego’s sentiments.
“It was scary, but it helped me,” said Carolina Cuevas, an eighth-grader. “[The venues] are breathtaking.”
Irving attempts to ensure that the students who devote their time to choir will also receive an educated background on music, as well as other extracurricular studies.
“The children get experience in relating all the subjects together,” said Irving. “Our arts department is extremely well-disciplined, well-attended, and well-functioned.”

Professional venues

Students of the Franklin School choir enjoy the privilege of earning experience at venues such as the Prudential Center in Newark, Madison Square Garden, and Radio City Music Hall.
“We want them to get well-rounded experience,” said Principal Peter Clark. “[This] is an opportunity they may never have again.”
The students have also performed in front of the Rockefeller Christmas Tree.
“The students are very motivated,” continued Clark. “The kids come and they just don’t leave [the program].”
Students such as eighth-grader Reann Bender are grateful for the opportunities Irving has been able to obtain for them.
“It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity for kids so young,” said Bender. “To see such beautiful places, so many kids would love an opportunity like that.”
“I have a lot of respect for the students,” said Clark. “It takes a lot of courage to get up there in front of thousands of people you don’t know.”
Stephen LaMarca may be reached at

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