Competing against choral groups from Indonesia, Serbia, China, Spain, and other countries around the world, San Antonio’s Reagan High School Choir came out on top Friday at the Leonardo Da Vinci International Choral Festival in Florence, Italy.

At the festival, Reagan’s choir first won the Youth and University Choirs division, one of 10 categories. As the winner of its division, the choir was eligible to compete for the Choral Grand Prix, the top prize of the festival. The choir performed two songs for the grand prize Friday evening and was declared the winner.

“They were over the moon,” Head Choir Director Mary Cowart said, describing the reaction of the 59 students who traveled overseas. “They were crying. They were laughing. They were everything. They were thrilled.”

North East Independent School District’s largest choir program boasts an enrollment of 300 students in eight different choirs. Students from all eight groups traveled to Italy, marking the third time Reagan has sent a choir to Italy to sing in St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome, among other venues. This week’s competition was the first time the choir has competed internationally.

Students competed against six other groups in their first round and eight in the second for the grand prize.

Cowart, who has led the choir for eight years, said the entire experience was invaluable, she said, even if the students had not taken home the top award.

“I love giving my kids the opportunity to experience other parts of the world,” Cowart said. “Tonight as we were waiting for the awards ceremony to start, all of the kids in the room were talking and interacting. There was a children’s choir from China in traditional dress and costume and our kids were over there talking and taking pictures with them.

“A choir from the Philippines had started everyone singing and dancing. That’s the kind of thing I wanted, for our kids to experience other kids from around the world that they really aren’t all that different from.”

The Reagan group will depart for Venice on Saturday and perform at St. Mark’s Basilica before returning to Texas early next week.

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Emily Donaldson

Emily Donaldson reports on education for the San Antonio Report.