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Singing the Bill of Rights changed me

Carlos Fra-Nero reads the Tenth Amendment in the Bill of Rights. (Mary Majerus-Collins/YJI)

Auburn, Maine, U.S.A. – How did I end up learning more about the U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights just by being in a concert?

I sang the words to those historic documents.

I was the youngest member of The Constitution Choir, a group that performed composer Neely Bruce’s work, The Bill of Rights: Ten Amendments in Eight Motets this fall. It’s an oratorio celebrating the Amendments to the Constitution from one to 10 and our concert was the first time it was ever performed in Maine.

My parents got me involved in the concert, which was a benefit for Youth Journalism International. They asked me if I wanted to be part of the project. I said yes because it sounded fun.

I wasn’t expecting many rehearsals, but in the end, there were a lot of them. We spent a significant amount of time before the performance working on the music.

Rehearsing with the adults was interesting. We sang together in our choir parts in a way I hadn’t before. I was part of the tenor section.

Carlos Fra-Nero rehearses with The Constitution Choir in September. (YJI photo)

What I liked about the project was that the people were welcoming and fun. Singing the Bill of Rights was also a new experience that changed me.

I learned what my vocal range is now and I found out that there is more to singing than just your range. In our vocal training, we learned to focus on our breath, too. When our conductor, Richard Hicks, told us what to do, we singers were usually on the same page, so it made singing easier for everyone. It helped the musicians keep the beat as well.

On the big day, more than 100 people were in the audience at the First Universalist Church, where the concert was held. Among them were my family, my teachers and my friend.

U.S. Sen. Angus King spoke after the performance. He talked about the importance of the Constitution and how it is a living document.

I wasn’t nervous throughout the show – I had fun.  I am grateful for the opportunity to sing such a beautiful piece of music.

Several people read the Amendments out loud before we sang them. Our congressman, U.S. Rep. Jared Golden, read one of the Amendments and so did Genie Gannett, founder of the First Amendment Museum. I read one, too.

The Amendment I read was the one and only Tenth Amendment. It says that the powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states respectively, or to the people.

Carlos Fra-Nero is a Junior Reporter with Youth Journalism International. He authored this piece. Mary Majerus-Collins is a Correspondent with Youth Journalism International. She took the photo of Carlos reading the Tenth Amendment during the performance.

U.S. Sen. Angus King, YJI student Carlos Fra-Nero, YJI co-founder Jackie Majerus and in front, cellist Madeleine Vaillancourt after the concert. (Northstar Photography)

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