Thursday, December 16, 2010

A Long Day's Lesson

As Marketing Director for the Indianapolis Children's Choir, my days are full. Today was fuller than most. It began with meeting a group of singers at a local TV station for a live segment, then shopping for a reception, uploading photos, selling a few tickets, putting the finishing touches on a press release, answering email, answering voice mail, writing a thank-you note to a local news editor for a print story, submitting some information to a choral publication, reserving ad space in another, reviewing a video project, delivering CDs to a retailer, and loading toys into my van that were donated for a local toy drive.

What struck me as I was leaving the concert venue where the toys had been collected was a smile and a wave from a parent who had been at the TV station early this morning as well.

Her day had been as long as mine.

It was another reminder that our parents are one of our finest assets. They sacrifice, rearrange schedules, and put up with last minute changes. A week like this - leading up to a concert - is especially taxing.

Thanks to all our parents, for all you do. When your children file flawlessly into the sanctuary at St. Luke's United Methodist Church this weekend, when you hear the first measure of the first song, when the conductor takes the podium and raises the baton, you'll be reminded why it's worth it.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Collaboration at its Finest kicks-off 25th Anniversary

Aside from the occasional street musician playing his own songs, most projects involving the performing arts are collaborations. Nowhere was this more evident than Friday evening, when the Indianapolis Children's Choir performed the world premiere of The Lost Son.

Collaborators in this concert were many. The company commissioning this piece, Soli Deo Gloria, their talented and visionary CEO and an equally visionary board of directors and artistic director were just the beginning.

The librettist then eloquently penned the story of the prodigal son into poetry and the composer infused song into those words. The narrator and the orchestra and the genius of the ICC founder and artistic director Henry Leck tirelessly rehearsed until the musical score and the voices melded into one.

The Indianapolis Youth Chorale began the concert is such a classy fashion and set the tone for what the audience would experience next. The local Indianapolis media, the ticket buyers, and the financial sponsors all did their part to fill the house. The staffs of the ICC, St. Paul's Music and SDG did dozens of tasks of that go unrecognized.

The videographer and photographers whose work will preserve this moment in time and even the ushers at St. Pauls who hurriedly added extra chairs as the audience was filling the sanctuary all added to the concert's success.

What sets this collaboration apart from our colleagues in the arts community is the keystone without which none of this would happen: the parents.

Thanks to them, the night was divine.

Friday, October 1, 2010

An Event to Remember

I am not sure if the singers understood. Was this just another performance for them? Did they really understand THIS opportunity?

Last Saturday, the Cantantes Angeli choir were guest artists at the Indianapolis Prize Gala. (This is the world's leading award for animal conservation, presented by the Indianapolis Zoo. This year's winner, Dr. Iain Douglas-Hamilton, was honored for his work with Save the Elephants.)

The Indianapolis Children's Choir has performed at countless award ceremonies. This one was special. The ceremony included a song written by legendary composer Marvin Hamlisch, "True Heroes" was an inspiring work about the true heroes of conservation - people like Dr. Douglas-Hamilton.

Mr. Hamlisch was in attendance for this event, serving as accompanist. Henry, along with soprano Angela Brown, worked with Mr. Hamlisch during a lengthy rehearsal to fine tune the performance. It was fascinating to watch these three music professionals - each at the top of their respective games - to come together and present the audience with an experience they will not soon forget.

Until Henry instructed the singers to do a little research on Mr. Hamlisch, I'm sure only a handful knew that he was an Emmy, Oscar, Tony, Grammy, Golden Globe and Pulitzer Prize winner. Hopefully, it's an experience they'll look back on and say, "Wow! I worked with one of the greatest names in entertainment."

An experience brought to them by the legacy Henry Leck began 25 years ago.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

The Power of LaBamba!

I went to see my first Symphony on the Prairie concert this week. (I am somewhat embarrassed that as Marketing Director for the Indianapolis Children's Choir I had never been!)

The show was Buddy Holly & Friends. This was a tribute show to Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens & the Big Bopper. In the spirit of full disclosure, I had see these guys perform before - and knew they were fantastic.

I had not, however, seen them perform outdoors. I was pleasantly surprised by the fantastic acoustics provided by the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra and Connor Prairie. What really was the icing on the cake for me was how the thousands of people responded to the music. Folks were up dancing, singing - and the energy was palpable. When Ray Anthony - who performed as Ritchie Valens - teased the audience with the first few bars of LaBamba - I thought the prairie was going to explode with anticipation.

Music, and few other things, can do this. It can wow a crowd, and make you cry, and send you back to a long ago memory, and is one of the things that gives those intangible moments in life a chance at being defined.

So go enjoy some music this weekend!

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Nine concerts. Six venues. One historic season.

It's been 25 years in the making: the silver anniversary concert season of one of the world's premier children's choirs.

Season tickets go on sale today! By far the best value in town for season tickets, you'll experience choral music at its finest and enjoy some of Indy's most beautiful venues. Choose as few as three concerts, all nine or anything in between to receive the discounted season ticket price.

Henry Leck, Founder and Artistic Director, recently reflected on the choir's beginnings. "You know it’s there is an old adage that says the secret to success is find a need and fill it and I think that’s what happened in this case. When I started the Indianapolis Children’s Choir there were probably only about 10 children's choirs in United States. It was in the mid 80s that children's choirs started springing up all over the place. I think the timing was right and the need was there."

The timing WAS right, the need WAS there - and so was the support of thousands of parents, singers, sponsors, volunteers and donors throughout the years. Thanks to all.

To buy tickets and check out concert dates and venues, visit "TICKETS" on the ICC website. See you at the show!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Common Denominator

In an effort to come up with some new print advertising for the 25th anniversary season, I scheduled a photo shoot with some ICC singers. Due to the fact that the concept was developed pretty close to some advertising deadlines, the shoot was put together quickly. With such little notice, I was not really attentive to which choirs the singers were in - I was just thrilled their parents could get them to it!

It was interesting though, because four different choirs wound up being represented. I entered the room where I had told parents to meet, and the singers were all just sitting there, quietly. So I said, "Do any of you know each other?" Aside from the brother and sister team from Cantantes Angeli, the reply was, "No."

So we went through introductions. We talked about how the CA kids were moving up to the Indianapolis Youth Chorale, and which choir everyone had been in last year. Within minutes the kids were all chatting, and acted like young professionals during the shoot. Considering the amount of experience I have as an art director is zero, they all took direction really well. They were polite, articulate and fun to work with. I was most impressed with how fast they went from being strangers to team players in a group project.

They all had different things going on in their life that day. That evening though, their common denominator was the Indianapolis Children's Choir.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Thanks, Pixar

I have to hand it to Pixar. I was reminded of how good they are at making movies tonight after seeing Toy Story 3. Since 1995 when Toy Story came into our theaters and introdced us to just how real animation can look, the story has followed Andy and the adventures with his memorable cast of toys.

Free family tickets are a perk of having two sons who work at a movie theater, and it was with them I settled in tonight for Toy Story 3. They are taller than me now, but back when Toy Story first premiered, they were 3 and 4. Just like Andy, they will be starting college in the fall. I hadn't expected this film to move us, but it did. By the end of the movie they were talking about their own Woody and Buzz toys, and regaling me with memories of adventures that - until tonight - I hadn't known made such an impact. I was surprised to hear how memorable it was for them to visit the ocean, nurse a turtle back to health and set off fire crackers in their fort built out of snow.

Some things, like the Indianapolis Children's Choir, we know make an impression on our children. The ICC impacts lives every day by offering a top-notch choral education, lessons in teamwork and a chance to see the world. Each young singer also gets something unique out of this program, and like the stories that came bubbling up out of my own boys tonight, we may not know what that is for years. But we work hard every day to make sure the impact is a good one.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Day Five - Choral Festival!

This morning, a parent who has two children in the Bel Canto choir, (Mr. Pedde's choir) asked me, "Which is the best children's choir in the world?"

I must have looked at her with a quizzical expression, because she continued, "Well, the directors are always saying that the Indianapolis Children's Choir is one of the best children's choirs. I think we ARE the best!"

She had just come from the combined rehearsal for tomorrow's concert. Hearing both the morning and afternoon groups sing together moved anyone who was listening. It was an amazing sound.

During this week, a concurrent program has been going on called Creating Artistry. This is a week-long intensive workshop for conductors, led by the ICC Founder and Artistic Director Henry Leck. We have conductors from around the world studying under Mr. Leck, and our own ICC directors are required to complete this same training as well. Rest assured - your children are learning from the best of the best!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Day Four - Choral Festival!

The bar has been set pretty high for the Choral Festival campers this week, but they are proving they are up to the task! They are doing so well learning their assigned music for Saturday's concert, that they even had time to learn a new folk song today. It is exciting and inspiring to be around children when they are so excited themselves about learning!

By the end of both the morning and afternoon rehearsals, the groups had demonstrated that they almost knew every piece of music by memory! Next time you watch a choir perform, take notice if they are using the printed music - many adult choirs do. It is really a tribute to the talent of the directors of the Indianapolis Children's Choir, and the campers themselves, that the music has been memorized so fast.

You're in for a treat on Saturday!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Day Three - Choral Festival!

Today the campers arrived in their sunny yellow shirts, and they really are becoming a group that is working as one. Many of the singers took Mr. Pedde's request to heart and have memorized a few of the songs. They understand the warm-up process, are singing with exuberance and more and more are auditioning every day.

One of the highlights of the day was getting to meet the ICC Founder and Artistic Director, Henry Leck. The kids were able to ask him a myriad of questions about the choir.

Also today, the campers were able to see an established Indianapolis Children's Choir group perform. When asked by Mrs. Dwyer to raise their hands if they had themselves been through Choral Festival, nearly every hand was raised!

ICC really is a journey - from Choral Festival participant to becoming a member of one of the best children's choirs in the world!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Day Two - Choral Festival!

The morning and afternoon sessions on day two went amazingly well! "The singers arrived ready to sing with energy and beauty. They did an incredible job remembering much of what was taught on Monday," said Ruth Dwyer, ICC Director of Education. "They did an especially good job working on the Bel Canto vocal technique introduced to them at the first rehearsal."

Ruth, and all the ICC directors, have something in common that I noticed today as I was going from room to room. They all teach with encouragement. Some of the wonderfully reassuring things I heard today were: "You are wonderful musicians!", "You are all so smart I know you can memorize this music!", "You have the best singing posture!"

I recently interviewed some ICC alumni for a documentary, and when asked to describe the Indianapolis Children's Choir in one word, one particular alumni did indeed chose "encouraging." Having a passion for an activity is one thing; but having someone encourage you along the way gives that passion staying power.

Thank you for letting us encourage your children!

Monday, June 14, 2010

Day One - Choral Festival!

It is an amazing thing, watching children. They came to the Indianapolis Children's Choir this morning, arriving for the first day of our 25th annual Choral Festival Summer Camp. Some had a look of trepidation, some looked like they just woke up, some were excited and others looked like they didn't quite know what to expect.

As they streamed up the steps of Lilly Hall, into the registration room then to the choir room, they took their assigned seats. They are like little diamonds in the rough - in a few short days it is hard to believe they will be participating in a public concert on the magnificent Clowes stage.

To get there, our directors work their magic. The kids were all given music folders today, and what I heard coming out of the choir rooms just this morning was already amazing. These campers don't know yet the journey they are on, and the thrill they will feel when they all come together to make an audience get up off its feet.

Welcome campers, and parents to the Indianapolis Children's Choir! Thanks for coming along for the 25th anniversary ride!

Sunday, June 6, 2010

To Influence a Life

Days ago, legendary basketball coach and native Hoosier John Wooden passed away. Indianapolis Star sports columnist Bob Kravitz wrote a stirring tribute to Wooden. Kravitz chronicled Wooden's 99 years, and summed it up by saying, "A well-lived life is a life that touches and helps others. Wooden left enormous footprints on so many lives."

When I read those words, it was a bit of deja vu. Earlier in the week, I was coordinating two long days of interviews with ICC alumni, in preparation for a video documentary. Without exception, each alumni spoke to the incredible impact the choir had on them. Whether they were in one year or 10, each reflected upon the life-changing significance the Indianapolis Children's Choir had made. If a script had been written, it couldn't have been more poignant.

It would be futile to compare John Wooden with Henry Leck, or Ruth Dwyer or the ICC organization for that matter. They are all great in their own way. But, John Wooden's passing has reminded me that it is a wonderful thing to do a job so well that years later people credit their experience with you as a turning point in their lives.

You are an inspiration Coach Wooden. May you rest in peace.

Monday, April 5, 2010

A Spotlight on Perfection

The offices of the Indianapolis Children's Choir are on the campus of Butler University. Few people outside the ICC family know this. Up until two weeks ago, even fewer people knew exactly where Butler University was.

Thanks to the Butler University men's basketball team advancing to the NCAA championship game tonight, the awareness factor for Butler has grown exponentially. The championship game being played right here in Indy is icing on the cake.

The excitement on campus, and in town, is palpable. I know there are some folks in the arts community who lament all the attention that sports get, but there is no denying it: This is a sports town. Indy has four professional teams, a myriad of amateur teams, a very strong tradition of high school sports, and is home to the NCAA headquarters. There's also that little event we call the "Greatest Spectacle in Racing."

Indianapolis has an equally impressive array of art offerings. We are home to one of the few full-time orchestras in the country, have our own opera company, a myriad of fine theaters, dance offerings and world class art museums. Not to mention one of the largest children's choirs in the world.

Some people do naturally gravitate to art. Or to sport. Rarely both. Despite their different fan clubs, they both have the power to touch us. The anticipation felt when the house lights in a theater go down and the show is about to start is the same as when a row of sprinters crouch down in their starting blocks. Exhilaration when a piece of music has been played masterfully is the same as when we watch a quarterback perfectly hurl a football to the precise place he needs it to be. Together, art and sport allow us to feel the depths and peaks of human emotion.

So, if you only consider yourself a sports fan, or an arts patron, but never both, consider this: When you watch Butler coach Brad Stevens skillfully orchestrate the movements of five young men on a basketball court, and you watch an ICC conductor turn a new piece of music into a beautiful sound - you are watching the same thing. Perfection.

Good luck Butler!

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Auditions Revealed

Have you ever thought about having your child join the Indianapolis Children's Choir? Did you stop after that first thought, thinking it was too hard to get in? Were you worried about the audition process?

It is really much more simple than most people realize. Although the level of difficulty for the ICC auditions does increase depending on which level choir a singer is trying out for, the process for the beginning choirs (grades 4 through 7), is quite simple. The audition is an assessment of a child's readiness to sing in a choral environment. The ability to match pitch is what is most important. Preparation is never needed, and directors try to assess singers in small groups if possible.

"Are You Sleeping," that perennial favorite of music teachers everywhere, is one of the songs the ICC uses often during auditions. I observed one of ICC's Director of Education Ruth Dwyer's choirs demonstrate this song last week. Her Chamber choir, comprised mostly of 5th and 6th graders, sang it better than I had ever heard it. Singing this song in a round was the pinnacle of achievement in my 5th grade music class many years ago, and I'm sure we didn't sing it nearly as well as Chamber choir did!

If your children like to sing, give the ICC offices a call. Schedule an audition, and learn about the different choirs and programs offered. Whatever you do, tell your children to keep singing!