Music is intrinsic to the human condition. As babies we wiggle and giggle as we bounce to a beat. As we mature, we are drawn to different genres depending on what we hear around us. Our families, friends, and communities all influence what music we choose. Music brings us joy, gets us moving, consoles and inspires us. We recognize music is vital to the well-being and full development of children, adolescents, and adults, and therefore essential for creating thoughtful, and dynamic communities.
Welcome to the first installment of The Children’s Corner. As executive director of the San Diego Children’s Choir and mother of a 10-year-old, I see the benefits that a musically rich environment provides children. As parents, we all want the best for our children. Good grades, strong social skills, and a positive learning environment are just a few of those aspirations. What research has found is that children who participate in music get better grades, have good homework habits and show high levels of creativity. I hope to offer Troubadour readers insights, resources, and local stories about music so the children in your lives can have access to quality music education and can get as much as possible out of the experience.
Let me tell you a little bit about the San Diego Children’s Choir. The Choir has been a part of our community for more than 28 years. It was established to give children access to music education that had decreased or been removed from public schools.
Each school year more than 500 children, ages four—18, from more than 134 schools and 64 San Diego County zip codes come together in weekly rehearsals to share their love of singing. Five age-based ensembles sing music drawn from many languages, cultures, and periods of history, and represent styles from medieval to modern, classical, folk, and gospel. We have classes to introduce four through six year-olds to music making, an outreach program for low-income children, and an annual summer camp featuring artists from the Center for World Music.
Our instructors, who have been dubbed as “absolutely amazing” and “gifted” in parent surveys, are passionate about providing the highest quality of music education. Music literacy is taught at every level and includes healthy vocal technique, pitch matching, sight reading music, identifying structural elements and working well as a group. For our choristers, that translates to confidence, poise and cooperation.
The San Diego Children’s Choir teaches music education through creative rehearsal techniques that engage the whole child in healthy vocal production and music literacy as well as encouraging self-efficacy and a sense of community and belonging. Rehearsal activities draw from the Orff and Kodaly methods, two widely used approaches to music literacy and ear training that focus on solfege, rhythm, sight-reading, movement ,and improvisation. The Choir emphasizes well-supported head-voice singing, which is a natural entrance into healthy singing that can evolve into any style once well developed. The San Diego Children’s Choir choristers also gain leadership skills during their time in the Choir that are nurtured through opportunities in rehearsal and, at the older levels, through formal leadership roles.
The Choir strives to increase students’ confidence, discipline, and love of music by providing them with local, national, and international performance opportunities including annual concerts and performances. Partnering organizations include the San Diego Symphony, the San Diego Master Chorale, and Westwind Brass. Each year the Choir produces two concerts–a spring concert at Jacobs’ Music Center’s Copley Symphony Hall with special guest artists and a winter concert showcasing the holidays. Latin percussionist and local legend Charlie Chavez and jazz icon and award-winning trumpeter Gilbert Castellanos have been highlights of recent spring concerts.
Our advanced choristers tour both nationally and internationally each year. In 2017, they performed at New York’s Carnegie Hall. This summer they participated in the Stirling Bridge Music Festival in Scotland.
Overall, choristers sing in more than 22 performances throughout the year. From our bi-annual concerts to singing in the San Diego Ballet’s Nutcracker to performing the National Anthem at a Padres game, our choristers are known as San Diego’s Ambassadors of Song.
If you’d like to share some news related to children and singing, please email me at ccottriall@sdcChoir.org.
Carrie Musick Cottriall is the executive director of the San Diego Children’s Choir. Working with the organization’s Board of Directors, she is responsible for the management, programming, fundraising, and marketing of the area’s oldest and largest children’s choir.