Senior who sang at Carnegie Hall recalls her perfect pitch experiences

January 26, 2020 — by Kaasha Minocha

Senior Mita Kongetira, wearing a floor-length sleeveless dress, puffy jacket and boots strolled down the streets of New York City on a cold night, as she made her way to Carnegie Hall. 

Kongetira had flown into New York last December after finding out she won the Broadway category of the highly competitive American Protege competition for musical talent.  As she walked, Kongetira ran through the song she would be singing to a large audience of other winners’ parents — “Don’t Rain on my Parade” by Barbra Streisand.

Her performance was the culmination of years of work. She started singing at 8. Over the years, singing morphed into an outlet for her to express herself and as a means to alleviate stress, she said. 

The American Protege competition is the largest and most popular music competition at Carnegie Hall. The competition, which requires competitors to submit three videos of them singing the previous June, attracted the largest number of competitive applicants on record than from all previous years. The competitors came from every corner of the world including various parts of the U.S. and 57 other countries. 

Kongetira learned about the competition about a week before the application deadline, and she prepared three Broadway songs for the audition: “Don’t Know Why” by Norah Jones, “Send in the Clowns” by Judy Collins and “Don’t Rain on my Parade.”

“It was 100 degrees on the audition day, and I was extremely dehydrated, so the recordings weren’t very good, and I wasn’t expecting to win,” Kongetira said. “The results came out the next week with the list of winners, and I was surprised, but very excited to have won second place in the competition.”

After winning second place that day, she was invited to perform at Carnegie Hall along with the other winners during winter break.

Kongetira, who has been a part of the school’s choir program for the past four years, was inspired to start singing after listening to contemporary music, namely songs from Adele — her all time favorite artist — and soundtracks of from “Mamma Mia” and “Lemonade Mouth.” 

“I loved the soundtracks and would sing along with the songs all the time when I was younger, which is when I really started to develop a passion for singing,” Kongetira said.

Early on, Kongetira’s parents exposed her to numerous genres including rock, pop, jazz, blues and R&B — all of which contributed to her interest in singing.

Over the years, Kongetira has sung a variety of these and other genres. When first learning, Kongetira took classes in Hindustani music (Indian classical) and later transitioned to learning how to sing musical theater and Western classical music in middle school.

In sixth grade, Kongetira joined the Redwood Middle School choir and thoroughly enjoyed the experience, which led her to join Concert Choir freshman year and Chamber Choir, an audition-based choir, in her sophomore year. 

“The sound we create is much more rich and complex than the sound of one person singing,” Kongetira explained. “I really like [choir director Andrew Ford’s] selection of music because it usually has a theme but still has a great amount of variety.” 

Sophomore Ahana Chakraborty, part of Chamber choir with Kongetira, said it’s been fun to work with her as they are in the same vocal range group, the sopranos. Chakraborty also added that Kongetira helps her in a variety of ways such as learning the music. 

Chakraborty said Kongetira’s voice has grown in the time she has known her.

 “I really like her voice because she has a vast range, and her voice has a very unique sound to it. It's a mix of pop and jazz which sounds really pretty. Overall, I think her voice has grown to have a more powerhouse sound, and she also seems to have grown out of her comfort zone,” Chakraborty said. 

Over the years, singing has had numerous positive impacts and has shaped her identity. Individual singing and performing has built Kongetira’s self-confidence, and has helped her overcome stage fright.

Most of all, however, Kongetira values choir and the community it builds. 

“I love singing in a choir because it taught me how to blend and harmonize with other people and work with them to create beautiful music,” Kongetira said.

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On March 27, members of the Air National Guard converted the Santa Clara County Convention Center to a temporary federal facility for about 250 coronavirus patients. The center is to house those who have tested positive for the virus, but don't require intensive in-hospital care. More information can be found through the local news. Photo courtesy of Randy Vazquez of the Bay Area News Group.

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