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Rye Brook Singer Combines Nature, Song

Rye Brook's Carol McMillan at Asa Wright Nature Center in the mountains of Trinidad.
Rye Brook's Carol McMillan at Asa Wright Nature Center in the mountains of Trinidad. Photo Credit: Contributed

WESTCHESTER COUNTY, N.Y. -- From the Pacific Northwest to the mountains of Germany, Carol McMillan has always found a home in music.

"I think my mother was one of those people who believed that music was the cornerstone of education," said McMillan, a Rye Brook resident and member of the Westchester Choral Society.

Growing up in Santa Barbara, Calif., McMillan developed a love for both the outdoors and music from a young age. "[My sister and I] were involved in piano lessons from a young age, and it turned out I really enjoyed it," she said. "It wasn’t until college that I really got into singing. My first class on the very first day was music appreciation, and I was so captivated that I joined the chorus."

After graduating college, McMillan worked locally for several years before landing a job that would last her a lifetime. "I came across an opportunity to work for the Girl Scouts and began working in Santa Barbara," she said. "After a few years I moved to Seattle, then to Europe working with American military families before joining the national staff in New York in 1988."

All along the way, she never gave up her love for singing. "I was in a group in Seattle and sang in a community chorus in Giessen, Germany, which was an incredible experience," she said. After settling in Westchester County in the late 80s she came across the Westchester Choral Society through one of their many public productions. She was immediately hooked. "I heard the Choral Society perform and thought, ‘Why am I not doing this?’” she said. 

Having been a member of the group since 1993, she still marvels at the longevity and dedication of her fellow singers. "The mixture of the group and level of singing is excellent," said McMillan. "We have a number of people who have been singing for more than 30 years, from life changes to career changes, and we now have a good mixture of younger members as well."

When she's not singing, McMillan lends her ear to a different hobby: bird watching. Having traveled from the jungles of Trinidad, Cuba and Costa Rica to the eastern coast of Ireland in search of birds, her love of nature and the outdoors is never far off. "I find New York is quite surprising," she said. "In just a few minutes I can be in the most scenic areas you can find."

McMillan and the Westchester Choral Society are currently preparing for their Spring Concert, which will feature John Rutter's "Gloria" and "The Sprig of Thyme." The concert is scheduled for May 12 at Rye Presbyterian Church in Rye.

The Westchester Choral Society is also welcoming experienced choral singers to open rehearsals scheduled on Tuesday, Jan. 16 and Tuesday. Jan. 23. The chorus practices every Tuesday from 7 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. at the Westchester Conservatory of Music in White Plains.

For more information on the Westchester Choral Society or to schedule an audition, call (914) 285-9026 or click here.