Tuesday, December 15, 2009

An Audience to Envy

Standing room only - the type of audience every performing arts group desires. Tonight, this is precisely the audience that the Emmerich Manual High School concert choir and band had for their Manual Christmas Spectacular.

Months ago, Indianapolis Star columnist Matt Tully began a series of columns about life at Manual, one of the high schools in the Indianapolis Public School system. He wrote volumes about the problems there, many of which he directly observed. One of the bright spots was the choir, and its energetic young director, Spencer Lloyd. Mr. Tully appealed to the community to support the holiday concert. The high school theater with over 1300 seats traditionally sees fewer than 100 patrons in the audience.

The community answered. Folks literally poured in while Mr. Tully stood in the doorway modestly greeting the many patrons who thanked him. I pulled up a seat on the floor and enjoyed a concert filled with enthusiasm and holiday spirit galore.

Every singer in the Indianapolis Children's Choir knows what it's like to have an appreciative audience, and now these Manual performers do as well. A long and robust standing ovation was bestowed upon them. In this beautiful high school theater the power of the press, the importance of arts education, and the common language of music - along with a little Christmas spirit - all came together and showed a community just how strong it can be.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Reality Bites

It is always a healthy thing to have a reality check once in a while, and recently the Indianapolis Children's Choir experienced a good one. We made the decision to participate in Indianapolis Downtown Inc.'s Circle of Lights program this year. I thought of the audition as a mere formality.

Last week, a nicely worded letter from the Indy Downtown folks informed me otherwise. Lo and behold, we did NOT make the cut.

A qualifier is needed: I was told it was best to audition in person, but they would certainly accept a CD in lieu of our choir being present. Our reputation spoke volumes, and the organizers understood the logistical issues we routinely face in gathering a choir together. So we selected some holiday songs and sent a CD on its way.

Our rejection letter spoke about the record number of acts that auditioned this year, as well as the concerns of staging an outdoor event. I'm sure the thought of herding an entire choir on and off a small stage quickly gave the organizers thoughts of how many things could go wrong on live TV!)

As busy as our singers are during the holidays, this decision, although it stings a little, is probably for the best. My brief interaction with the Circle of Lights process brought a new appreciation for the organizers of this event.

To all the performers who DID make the cut - break a leg! The Indianapolis Children's Choir wishes you all the best! Without a single ounce of jealousy.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Truly Moving Evening

Last night, I was lucky enough to be in the audience of the Heartland Film Festival's opening night feature: "Hachi: A Dog's Tale". The packed house at the Murat was bound by the shared experience of being engulfed in this simple story of a man and his dog. The fact that this was a true story made made the warm fuzzy feeling even more poignant.

Heartland Film Festival President & CEO Jeff Sparks spoke from the stage about how in this rough economy, his film festival is growing. I think folks are looking for something to feel good about these days, and movies like Hachi do the trick.

There is a lot of negativity to go around today - so when you see your chance, escape from it. Whether its a wonderful movie, a lazy Sunday morning, a new challenge met - or hearing the Indianapolis Children's Choir sing........seek out those things that bring a smile.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Anatomy of a Video Shoot

Like many arts organizations, the Indianapolis Children's Choir has an annual fundraising gala, and planning is already underway. Aptly titled The Big Fun Event, ours is a night that people really do have fun at!

If, as they say, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, then the Indianapolis Museum of Art should be flattered! They sent around a great little video promoting their own fundraiser, and as in everything they do, it was a class act. It left me feeling like I wanted to support them, and communicated a concise yet meaningful message.

I thought, "We can do that!" Harnessing the impact of email and video may just be the best way to promote the Big Fun Event. In the capable hands of SceneStream Digital Video Marketing, the shoot went well. Stay tuned for the final product!

(Check out the ICC fan page on Facebook for more pics from the shoot!)

Friday, September 25, 2009

Lesson for the Day

Recently, the Indianapolis Children's Choir performed at the annual Fiesta celebration in downtown Indy. The vibrant colors representing the various Latin countries, the mouth-watering aromas and the picture-perfect weather made for a wonderful day.

Cantantes Angeli kicked off a four-song set with our national anthem. Before the first few bars were sung, it became clear to me that many people in attendance may have forgotten, or perhaps have never known, the proper conduct they should display during the Star Spangled Banner.

Only a handful of people turned to face the flag, fewer still in proper form. Reverance for our flag is second nature to me, most likely due to many years spent on military installations. For those you may not have the same experience, here is what United States Code 36 says about conduct during the playing of our national anthem:

During rendition of the national anthem when the flag is displayed, all present except those in uniform should stand at attention facing the flag with the right hand over the heart. Men not in uniform should remove their headdress with their right hand and hold it at the left shoulder, the hand being over the heart. Persons in uniform should render the military salute at the first note of the anthem and retain this position until the last note. When the flag is not displayed, those present should face toward the music and act in the same manner they would if the flag were displayed there.
Yet another "teachable moment" here at ICC!

Friday, September 11, 2009

What Merits a Standing Ovation?

Driving to work yesterday, I caught the end of a conversation on WIBC. The morning talk show hosts, Terri Stacy and Big Joe Staysniak,were discussing what types of events merit a standing ovation.

I was thrilled to hear the first event on Terri Stacy's list was children singing! She went on to say how moving it can be to hear kids sing, and that, "....the Indianapolis Children's Choir does it to me every time!"

To hear the power and emotion that can come from these small voices certainly can move one to their feet. If you consider the work that is needed to meld hundreds of unique voices into one beautiful sound, a standing ovation is earned even before these kids sing the first bars of a song!

With the many public performances around town, you can not only appreciate all the hard work of our singers and artistic staff, but hear the results as well!
Our new season, Tapestry of Song, offers many opportunities to discover the Indianapolis Children's Choir. Standing ovations are guaranteed!

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Start With Art - What a great idea!

Today I attended Start With Art, a function put on each year by the Arts Council of Indianapolis to kick off the arts season. The featured speaker was Angela Brown, acclaimed opera singer and Indianapolis native. Angela spoke on the theme of the event, "Arts At Work", and in a very engaging way recounted her early experiences in the arts right here in Indy.

She praised the Indianapolis arts scene as that rivaling any big city. Growing up, the arts environment here provided her many opportunities to at first discover, then hone, her amazing talent.

She went on to speak of her travels around the world, and recently visited Christel House South Africa, where she sang with the same choir that the Indianapolis Children's Choir sang with while touring two years ago. (Even Angela commented that "there's nothing like singing with children!")

Then she said something that inspired this blog: "Arts make the bad things go down easy." The arts take what is beautiful about life and showcases it for all to see, and they do indeed soften the edges of a bad day. A beautiful painting, a inspiring one-man play, a dancer moving in ways that should be impossible, or even a children's choir singing a song flawlessly - these do make life a bit easier for us all. So go ahead - start your Fall with a little more art!

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Welcome to the Indianapolis Children's Choir!

I recently attended a meeting for those parents who have kids in the Indianapolis Children's Choir. These meetings are conducted during the first week of rehearsals to introduce some of the staff to the parents, as well as to summarize the information in the parent handbook. The meeting I attended was for Treble Choir, which is comprised of some of our youngest singers. There were many parents in this meeting brand new to ICC.

As I looked around and chatted with a few people, I thought, "These folks have no idea what's in store for them!" Although they listened intently about uniforms, performances, tuition and donating to the choir, it would take more than a 60-minute meeting to really understand all that the Indianapolis Children's Choir represents. The world-class music education offered here combined with the focus on personal growth that ICC has always strived for with each individual singer won't be apparent this first week.

But.......after their child has been in a performance or two, after they've observed their child's choir director working with a passion that's palpable, after they've seen their child's self-esteem blossom - then they will understand the depth and breadth of ICC. Welcome!

Friday, July 31, 2009

Myths of the Indianapolis Children's Choir

Today I am headed out to the Marion County Fair to man the Indianapolis Children's Choir booth. This will be my second stint, as I was there last Friday as well.

ICC has not participated in any of the county fairs before, but we thought we would try this new venue to get the word out about our various programs.

Taking my place in Expo Hall across from the Culligan Man and his big faucet hanging in mid-air, I spent a few hours talking to folks. Those who are familiar with ICC had only positive things to say. A few alumni even stopped by to chat. Those who were not familiar with us were the ones that I was most interested in talking with, because these people I found had some common misperceptions about this wonderful organization. Here are the top 4:

1.) YOU HAVE TO BE A GOOD SINGER TO BE IN ICC. No, you do not. A child must have the ability to match-pitch. There are very few children who cannot do this. The very core of our mission is music education. ICC will teach them to sing well.

2.) ICC IS ONE BIG CHOIR. ICC is comprised of 19 separate choirs. Some practice on the campus of Butler University, and some practice in their hometown through our regional choir system. There are two Preparatory ensembles, (geared for the younger school-age child in grades 1 - 3), as well as First Steps in Music, a program for 3 to 5 year olds.

3.) THE TUITION COSTS TOO MUCH. ICC is one of the best music education values around. All tuition costs are for two semesters. Here is the breakdown:

Registration fee: $50
Regional choirs: $275
Preparatory Program & campus choirs rehearsing once per week: $365
All campus choirs rehearsing twice per week: $490

There are additional costs for a uniform, as well as the cost of the tickets for the families to see the professional performances that are in ICC's concert season. But the tuition averages to about $10 per rehearsal, which is very competitive for music lessons of any kind! Payment plans as well as financial aid is available.

4.) ICC MAKES THE KIDS TRAVEL INTERNATIONALLY. ICC has a long and proud tradition of touring around the globe, and performing is some of the world's finest venues. However, this is not mandatory. This is a choice each singer makes, and fundraising opportunities are made available to help supplement the cost.

I am getting ready to head off again to the fairgrounds, and in between chatting with my neighbors in Expo hall and running out for a funnel cake, I hope to debunk a few more ICC myths tonight.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

The Power of Music

I've been somewhat obsessed by the coverage Michael Jackson's passing. I think this is due to the fact that Thriller came out when I was a junior in high school, and it was huge. I remember it playing constantly on MTV, and even before the main attraction when we went to the movies. Then, a chance meeting with Brooke Shields gave me a brief insight into the real Michael Jackson. I grew up in New Jersey, and Brooke attended Peddie, a local private high school. My track team members and I once bumped into her at a track meet Peddie was hosting. As exciting as it was to meet her, we all wanted to know what Michael Jackson was REALLY like. She spoke so warmly about him, that from then on I always thought of him a little differently - as a guy who just really liked to sing.

His contributions to the entertainment industry changed the world. That's the power of music. It can change moods, change minds, and change hearts. The Indianapolis Children's Choir recently held a ceremony for its 2009 graduates. Part of the ceremony involved reading each graduate's answer to the following question: "What does ICC mean to me?" Elizabeth Bain, a six year member of ICC very eloquently said, "ICC means music to me. It is a common joy that flows through each and every one of us and bonds us in ways nothing else could."

Music does bond us. What else could explain all the recent attention on Michael Jackson? We all witnessed the making of one of the biggest stars on earth - brought to us by music.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Summer Camp - Full Steam Ahead!

It's been a busy week here, with Monday being the first day of the 2009 Indianapolis Children's Choir summer camp, "Summer Festival". Since this is my first year with ICC, I didn't quite know what to expect. I know there was lots of planning, and quite a bit of recruiting this year, but until I saw it for myself I couldn't quite grasp it.

On Monday, ICC began doing what it does better than any other organization: move hundreds of kids with ease. As parents dropped their children off, campers were given an information packet, a T-shirt and an assigned seat. Nervous parents and campers alike seemed to relax when they began to see how organized the system was. A huge hats off to Summer Festival coordinator Erin O'Rourke.

Promptly at 9am, the camp officially started. Our Director of Education Ruth Dwyer has a unique way of infusing enthusiasm into any audience, espcially an audience filled with children. Many other ICC directors were on hand to teach as well. As I roamed around to the different classrooms, I was surprised anew at the wealth of talent we have on our staff. By the end of Day 4, the campers really sound good!

I have a much better idea of our camp going into next year. Our campers don't come home with bug bites, crafts they've made or new stories to tell around the campfire ~ but they do come away with a glimpse into one of the best children's choirs in the world.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Summer Camp

My summer camp experience consisted of a few days with a Girl Scout troop camping in the Pine Barrens of New Jersey. Lots of sand, pine needles, humid weather and bad camp fire stories about the Jersey Devil. I took away a new appreciation for air-conditioning, but not much else.

The experience that a young singer gets from Summer Festival, the week-long day camp of the Indianapolis Children's Choir, can be the beginning of a relationship with one of the largest, and most respected children's choirs in the world. This year our camp runs from June 15 - 20. And, in a constantly growing mix of summer camp offerings, Summer Festival is unique. Why?

* Summer Festival is the only HALF day camp in Indianapolis. Campers choose either a morning or an afternoon session.

* The camp culminates in a performance on one of the largest stages in central Indiana ~ Clowes Memorial Hall!

* Summer Festival is one of the oldest camp programs in Indianapolis, now in its 24th year.

If you have kids in your life who love to sing, give us a call. They'll have a great time, will be learning choral singing from some of the most highly trained music educators around, and won't come home with sand in their sleeping bag.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Singing in My Ear

Well, it finally happened. A tune sung by the Indianapolis Children's Choir has landed on my IPOD. The always entertaining "Oye", the brainchild of Jim Papoulis, had my toes tapping in the car on the ride home from work last night. We had three phenomenal concerts this weekend, (Hear Our Song on Saturday, and two performances of Spring Celebration on Sunday) and "Oye" was in the repertoire. A recording was made of Hear Our Song, and that's how it landed in my CD player on the way home, and eventually in my IPOD.

Since I am not in the generation that grew up with the IPOD, I do not have it constantly stuck in my ear, nor do I have multiple play lists. I have ONE play list, filled with upbeat music to keep me motivated during my semi-regular runs. Since there is always the danger of me thinking I can run farther than I am capable of, the IPOD and it's cache of music carry me through.

So tonight, I'll listen to "Oye" on my run ~ when the Indianapolis Children's Choir will be singing just for me.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Choral Excellence in Columbus, Indiana!

Yesterday I ventured down to Columbus, Indiana for the "Voices of Spring" concert presented by the Columbus Indianapolis Children's Choir. Columbus is the oldest and most established of all of ICC's regional choirs, and the only one thus far to have split into two ensembles. With all of these accomplishments, I've been remiss at not making the trip sooner!

The concert, under the guidance of CICC's Artistic Director Ruth Dwyer, was a delight! The kids sounded great, and an appreciative audience was not only treated to the Columbus Descant and Concert choirs, but also the Indianapolis Youth Chorale. The CICC kids sang with a precision one doesn't normally hear from such young singers, and IYC treated the audience to an seemingly impossible eight-part Indian Raga. IYC Director Cheryl West said about two weeks ago her singers nearly threw in the towel with this piece. But they stuck with it, and it was not only a unique treat for the audience, but the younger singers as well. Something to aspire to. A great moment happened when Ruth Dwyer was introducing the IYC singers, and took time to ask "How many of you were ever in a 'Dwyer Choir'?" Nearly every IYC hand went up!

The concert ended with Ruth asking the audience to join all three choirs in singing Irving Berlin's "God Bless America." We can only speculate on why a Russian immigrant wrote such an inspiring tribute to the United States, so popular that a stirring rendition was sung by members of the United States Congress on the steps of the US Capitol on September 11, 2001. I would bet he wrote it, because as Ruth Dwyer told the audience "Music just makes us feel better." And yesterday afternoon, it certainly did.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Voice of Youth wrap

Here at the ICC offices we're all feeling a bit tired, but it's a good tired! Our Voices of Youth concerts this past Saturday were well received by very appreciative audiences! Since this is my first year with ICC, and my first Voices of Youth concert, I stand in amazement at the logistical feat our army of parent volunteers and experienced staff pull off on concert days. Moving hundreds of young singers quietly and seemingly flawlessly is no small accomplishment!

I invited two couples who had never been to an ICC concert to the 7pm show and am happy to report that they were amazed at the performance. Both spoke to the quality of the sound our choir directors were able to get out of these young kids, and it's safe to say that ICC has some new fans and future patrons!

As people were leaving the lobby after both shows, I heard a lot of positive buzz about Dance Kaleidoscope's performance as well. A wonderful complement to the show, the dancers garnered some new fans of their own. It was not only great for our audience, but for our ICC kids as well. Working with the DK dancers gave them an opportunity to appreciate this most athletic of all art forms up close.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

25th Anniversary committee meeting

The ICC's 25th anniversary committee met for the first time last night. A meeting filled with great ideas, ambitions and vision for this "silver" season lasted over 2 hours...........after a little leg work, some phone calls, and a survey of how 'do-able' some of these ideas are, I will later post a teaser on some of the upcoming plans.