Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Making on Impact: Reflections on Summer Camp

As I sat in the front row at Clowes Memorial Hall during the recent Choral Festival concert, I focused my camera on an ICC grad receiving her certificate.  I pulled back for a moment from the viewfinder to take a better look at her, as it suddenly struck me that this same singer was new camper a few years prior.  (During my early tenure at the Indianapolis Children's Choir we produced a camp video, and I spent a lot of time going over footage - I knew those faces!)

Time flies.  Kids grow up fast.  We get one chance at nurturing them through childhood. ICC helps in this regard. The Choral Festival singers now have a powerful childhood memory from the afternoon they stepped out on to the biggest stage in the city. Buzzing around that week I noticed how much fun our singer-volunteers were having, as well as several ICC alumni home from college. Buoyed by their own memorable experience, many returned to ICC for Choral Festival week. ICC makes a positive impact on young people.

How am I so sure about this?  A few years ago, I worked on a documentary for the ICC's 25th anniversary. Alumni played a starring role, and I was struck by the common themes of their statements. Across the board they spoke fondly of their years in the choir, about how much they loved their directors. They enjoyed the opportunity to sing with kids from all over central Indiana. Music allowed them express their feelings and thoughts as they were going through adolescence. The word 'fun' came up a lot and the idea that ICC felt like family. On an artistic level, they enjoyed striving for a bar that was set high, and surpassing it.

ICC Founder and Artistic Director Henry Leck sums it up best with his artistic vision: Helping kids achieve excellence.  That's what we do here.  We are the one of the largest and most successful children's choral programs in the world, with activities for kids of all ages. To the parents of the Choral Festival singers:  I appreciate you giving us a first look, and  I hope that you consider a second!

PS:  A recent radio interview on NPR goes into depth about the value of singing in groups. It's worth a listen!

Sunday, March 17, 2013

It's a Wrap: Indianapolis Youth Chorale Raises the Bar at ACDA

"I don't think people realize what went in to that!" said American Idol winner and country superstar Carrie Underwood.

She was referring to a spoof of the most watched YouTube video ever - Gangnam Style.  Underwood and her co-host for the Country Music Awards, Brad Paisley, did their own version, Gingham Style. Choreographers were hired for both her and Paisley, several tracks of the song were recorded, and they had  hours of rehearsal.  All for just about  60 seconds of entertainment - but the audience loved it.

I shared her sentiment as the Indianapolis Youth Chorale prepared for their performances in Dallas, Texas this past week at the American Choral Directors Association national convention.  ICC was sending a choir for an unprecedented fifth appearance, and like the Gangnam Style spoof, there was a lot of preparation the audience would never see.

They wouldn't see the music that was studied, the dogged determination that director Cheryl West put in to the rehearsals, nor the work of accompanists Martin Ellis and Rebecca Edie.  The dedication of language consultant and dance instructor Krsztina Inskeep as well as music educator Mary Evers would remain behind the scenes as well.

The audience wouldn't see the chasing down of details that went in to the ACDA concert program, the travel arrangements for nearly 100 people, nor the assistance and nurturing the chaperons, parents and ICC staff gave these young people along the way. They wouldn't see, but they would ultimately experience, the passion and dedication of Artistic Director Henry Leck who founded this choir decades ago.

Really, all that is just fine.  That's the nature of the performing arts. There doesn't need to be full disclosure of the process.  Like Underwood and Paisley's spoof, all the audience needs to do is sit back and enjoy.

It seems that, after two standing ovations, and compliments from the composers extolling how brilliantly IYC brought their works to life, the audience did more than enjoy:  They savored some of the finest young voices in the world.

photo:  Darla Berry

Underwood/Paisley Gingham Style:

(Even better!) IYC rehearsing "Dance of Exultation" (Dan Forrest):