LCA Senior Allana Matthews Is on a Mission
Set to Perform at Today’s
Boston Children’s Chorus’ MLK Tribute Concert
“‘Up to the Mountain’ speaks to us so deeply because it talks about getting to the place where you can look back and say, ‘I’ve done what I needed to do. . . . The Promised Land is there, and I will go.’”
Allana Matthews ’12 is recalling her passion at performing this song written by Patty Griffin, who was inspired by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s 1968 “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop” speech, which he gave the day before he was assassinated. “At Boston Children’s Chorus, we sing this song for Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and all he was fighting for,” Allana shares. “That’s our whole mission—to maximize the power of music to create social change.”
When Brockton resident and Lexington Christian Academy (LCA) senior Allana speaks these words, or any words for that matter, you find yourself stopping what you’re doing to look, as well as to listen. If eyes could talk, hers encourage you to find the joy in every situation; if smiles could speak, hers reassures you that we can bring peace to one another.
Boston and Lexington
Perhaps this is why a chorus of praise follows Allana wherever she goes. Her “family” at the Boston Children’s Chorus (BCC)—the multiracial, multicultural arts education organization she’s been an integral part of for nine years—depends on her maturity and friendship. This year she’s serving as co-president of the Premier Choir. And her friends and teachers at Lexington Christian Academy in Lexington, MA, where she has attended since 7th grade, rely on her leadership and commitment. This year she’s serving as all-school chaplain, which, among many duties as a prefect, involves arriving every Monday morning for Assembly with a thoughtful devotion to inspire her community of 6th–12th graders.
On this Monday, January 16, 2012, Lexington Christian Academy is closed in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Today is the Boston Children’s Chorus’ 9th Annual MLK Tribute Concert at New England Conservatory’s Jordan Hall. Additionally on this commemorative weekend, the Chorus will be featured on National Public Radio’s “From the Top” program.
Allana’s director of programs at Boston Children’s Chorus, Ben Hires, is quick to talk about her presence with the organization. “She deeply cares about singing, about the Chorus, and about her fellow colleagues,” he says. “Her quiet leadership style is evident in the fact that she is the go-to person. People know she is available to them for anything related to the Chorus or their personal lives. She is positive, is careful to not forget anyone, and she holds the group together, always bringing us back to our reason for being here.”
Since its debut concert in January 2004, the Boston Children’s Chorus has sung in over 60 performances for tens of thousands of audience members. The Chorus brings together a diverse group of more than 400 children from over 50 of Boston’s urban and suburban neighborhoods to discover the power of singing and to serve as ambassadors for their city. In 2004, The Boston Globe honored the Boston Children's Chorus with the title “Ambassadors of Harmony.”
“There is no better way to celebrate the Martin Luther King holiday than with diverse youth singing at levels of excellence,” states the Boston Children’s Chorus’ website. “This concert is the embodiment of Dr. King’s dream: that young people can transcend racial barriers to share their gifts and talents.”
The Boston Children's Chorus appears regularly at events for the City of Boston and performs with other musical organizations, including the Handel and Haydn Youth Chorale. Through the Boston Children’s Chorus, Allana has traveled to and sung in Illinois, Oregon, Washington, D.C., Mexico, Jordan, and the United Kingdom.
There, and Here
While all of the trips and performances have been valuable opportunities for growth for Allana, she recalls in particular how “the King of Jordan invited us all himself. It has changed all our lives. We sung at the King’s Academy in Jordan, and there I met a Palestinian refugee who told me her story. Looking in her eyes I saw no sign of hate or hurt. She said, ‘I love you.’ Everything she knows—her family and her home—has been taken away by armies, by war,” Allana says, still amazed. “It changes the way you think about the world. It makes you examine yourself: ‘What am I thinking? Am I judging?’ We were able to bring peace through our music and we saw how we can create peace among ourselves. It was so beautiful. Our music brought people to tears.”
Allana says the trip to Jordan came after “the hardest two years of my life as my family faced significant loss and challenges. I kept asking, ‘Where are you, God?’ I didn’t really see what was going on until after I looked back and realized God was still there and I got to have this unbelievable experience in Jordan. That little girl lost everything. I did not. It was humbling.”
Such events have helped make Allana the sought-after friend and student that she is. She enrolled at LCA from Parkside Christian Academy, where she attended since her preschool days, and shrugs off any assumption that spending her educational career at Christian schools thus far has insulated her from “the real world” rather than prepared her for it. “I have been exposed to many things in life and I’m grateful for that. I love the balance. I can relate to people who may not understand what a Christian school is like or the message of grace in the Gospel,” she says. “Lexington Christian Academy is eclectic, challenging, and loving. Having the class sizes we do at a college prep school means we can all know and accept each other. It wasn’t long after I came here that I realized I was saying hi to everyone by name!” Allana says this with enthusiasm and commitment, readily evident by the fact that over these past six years her commute has involved varying combinations of car, train, and bus. She now drives herself to Lexington, but not before dropping off her brother, Marlon, at his school. (Marlon is also a member of the Boston Children’s Chorus and the two regularly perform duets, including the powerful “People Get Ready.”)
Allana’s discipline and motivation are admired by all who know her. One of her friends, Emily Shuh ’12 of Wilmington, says, “There’s so much on Allana’s plate, but she gets everything done and still has time for her friends. She’s our chaplain here, she sings in Chorale, gets her schoolwork done, applies to college. . . . No matter how much she has to do, she still makes time to help someone else. She cares for us, she loves us. She handles herself with so much grace.”
As someone who has “the privilege” of serving as Allana’s advisor and homeroom teacher, LCA’s Director of Upper School Mr. David Jackson notes that, “Allana is young woman of real character. She takes her faith seriously and thinks deeply about people and their needs. It has been such a pleasure to watch her lead our community as chaplain.” Allana sees her weekly messages to LCA students as an extension of what she and her peers are learning. “I can relate to people and can teach by experience,” she shares.
Allana says all of her LCA teachers inspire her. As an example, she highlights her British Literature teacher Mrs. Karen Elliott. “She conducts her class in a way that nothing is hidden, and makes strong connections academically and spiritually and compares it all to our life. She’s challenging for a reason, because she wants to get us ready for the real world. She wants us to be noble and truthful. She’s reminded me about the importance of compassion.”
A Mission, A Voice
Allana, who began her college applications in July (“I’m not sure what motivated me to do that!”) is considering studying social work, public health, or pre-med at college this fall. “I want to work hands-on and face-to-face with children and teenagers. I want to be able to impact their lives. It’s important to me to give young people a voice that they don’t have,” she says.
For tomorrow, though, it’s back to exam week at Lexington Christian Academy and then the start of her final semester as a high school student. Allana Matthews has survived the demands of intense schoolwork and college applications and is poised for her future mission. “As Mr. Scott Stevens ’87 [director of student life] told us prefects at the beginning of the school year, ‘The greatest thing you can take with you is what you leave behind.’ When I see something that needs to be done, I just do it. I will forever be willing to give 100 percent. I love people.”
Wherever she goes, Allana Matthews will be at the center of positive change because of her heart, and her voice, for humanity.
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About Lexington Christian Academy
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Founded in 1946, Lexington Christian Academy (LCA) is Greater Boston’s oldest independent college preparatory Christian school. LCA students represent more than 50 local communities and several countries, including Austria, Brazil, Canada, China, Haiti, Hong Kong, India, Kenya, Philippines, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Taiwan, and Vietnam. In fall of 2011, LCA formally began offering a Boarding Program for regional, national, and international students. LCA’s rigorous college preparatory program equips students to become leaders of intellect and character at the colleges and universities of their choice. Faculty and students contribute a rich diversity of interests and experiences, and together cultivate an environment of stimulating ideas, essential questions, and respectful inquiry. For more information about Lexington Christian Academy people and programs, please contact Theresa Morin, Director of Marketing, at 781.862.7850 x153 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. Visit the Lexington Christian Academy website at lca.edu, and join our online community of friends at http://www.facebook.com/.