Why Children need to Sing

Photo credit by Erika Kjorlie Geery

Unity. Harmony. Compromise. Passion.

A year ago, a cadre of choral music and youth professionals gathered to consider the ways that a Youth Choir could be created to offer Upper Valley students an enriched vocal opportunity for musical growth. They recalled the amazing work done by Becky Luce at the elementary schools pulling together eager singers a few years ago.  Why couldn’t that happen again? 

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Money.   

Student Obligations. Homework, Sports, family meal times and early bedtimes all effected the availability of children in the Upper Valley to add one more thing to their plates.  

But not all children are involved in sports. Some are great at finishing their homework at school and if the timing was right, neither meals nor bedtimes would be compromised. What if it were free?

In scoping out new venues for my student recital this Spring, I happened into the Fairlee Town Hall. The receptionist was very kind and let me look around the newly restored Auditorium.  I fell in love with the resonant acoustics and could imagine the voices of children in my mind.  After a great conversation with a caring staff member, I left feeling as though I had found a venue for the nascent Adventure Kids Choir. 

The concept is simple. To give young people between the ages of 7-17 a voice. A powerful, united, choral voice to bring about an understanding of issues crucial to their futures and to take that voice to natural spaces, national, state and local parks, and eventually join our voices with youth choirs internationally, through festivals. 

As a founder of the social justice choir, Voices 21c, I mentored under an amazing humanitarian and musician named Andre DeQuadros.  He encouraged us to improvise, get outside of our comfort zones and push the boundaries of what choral music had been for centuries. We sang with choirs from the Congo, the Basque region of Spain, France, Israel and Palestine.  Last Summer, the group collaborated with singers in Mexico. 

One of the most formative experiences for me as a youth choir director was getting to meet and sing with The Jerusalem Youth Chorus which is a group comprised of Muslim Palestinians, Jewish Israelites and Arab Christians singing together in peace.  We also collaborated with Combatants for Peace, a group of former fighters from both sides of the conflict coming together to fight for acceptance and understanding. 

Inspired by the young Swedish student and the courage of the European climate walk-outs, I set forth to form a children’s choir with a nature conservation and social justice mission.  Adventure Kids Choir. 

While I was still in the early part of the planning process the Fairlee Arts Council called with a fabulous opportunity to create a children’s choir to sing a climate concert with Vermont’s premier professional choir, Counterpoint on May 23rd arose. Six degrees is an outreach project created to ask the question, “what happens when the temperature increases by six degrees?” 

 A few days later, information about the World Premier Hopkins Center production Understory came out. The stars had aligned.

Understory is a musical composition written by a woman composer named Carla Kihlstedt to be performed by the acclaimed Brooklyn Youth Chorus. According to the promotional copy, “Young singers speak for the trees that once stood on Dartmouth’s grounds in this new work.”  It is an interactive event to be held at the new Hood Museum at Dartmouth and best of all, it is free.   

Adventure Kids Choir is just getting started this week.  We meet Tuesday’s after school from 3:30 to 5:30 at the Fairlee Town Hall Auditorium which is located at the back of the Town Hall on the green. Registration is requested at fairleearts.org.  Admission will be continuous for this concert so students can join at any point.  The best part is, an anonymous donor is covering the costs so it can be a free experience. 

In addition to a weekly rehearsal, the group invites all young singers to join us at the Hopkins Center on April 16 at 5:30pm to hear the Brooklyn Youth Chorus and experience this new work. 

Who knows, maybe Adventure Kids Choir will perform it someday soon. We are planning to sing a piece by my friend, Andre called Adinu which I sang with the Jerusalem Youth Chorus. 

This summer, the Adventure Kids Choir will have a four day orientation day camp at Seven Stars Arts Center in Sharon, VT which will be our permanent home for the 2019-2020 school year. The dates for the camp are August 12-15 2019.  Sign-ups will be at sevenstarsarts.org soon or contact me at helmmeg@gmail.com or sevenstarsarts@gmail.com

Join us for this adventure!

Megan 

Megan Helm is a VT licensed music educator for grades PreK-12 in band, orchestra but most of all, choir and general music.  She has over 20 years of experience working with young people, teaching in public, private and independent schools in the Midwest. She sings professionally with the Vermont Chamber Artists and can be heard in choruses around the Upper Valley.  Her voice studio in White River Junction, MLH Studio Vocal, develops young singers through a variety of games and the Full Voice curriculum. She is the President of the Board at Seven Stars Arts Center and currently music directing Peter Pan at the Newport Opera House. Catch the show the second weekend in April. Get tickets at info@newportoperahouse.org

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