Many children dream of growing up wanting to be a singer or instrumentalist. They may want to sing like a Disney princess or other character, admire a famous drummer or rapper, or want to be a pop star. And although many children will sing in the car, shower, or at church, most don’t have the opportunity to have consistent instruction in music. This is where San Diego’s youth orchestras, choirs and musical theatre organization come in. Like the San Diego Children’s Choir, these organization offer weekly music instruction and performance opportunities.
We recently heard from one of our alumni about how her time in choir has impacted her life. She shared, “San Diego Children’s Choir was a wonderful experience for me. I auditioned when I was 12, with my only singing experience being the occasional school play or belting oldies in the car with my dad. But singing in a choir, with a traditional choral director and with many other singers, was a new experience. Singing wasn’t just about me anymore, but about us as a unit. It required concentration and practice to sing only my part while listening to others. I had to listen to find my place, my note, and when everyone got it right, the sound and power from our voices was strong. It was almost magical when the song would come together and the harmonies would soar. My experience with choir improved my skills but, more importantly, deepened my love and appreciation for music. When I graduated at 18, I was sad to leave choir behind. I went to college and got a job in the medical field as an occupational therapist. I thought I’d left my singing days behind.
But the funny thing is…now I sing every single day. I work with children with disabilities and many of them are non-verbal and extremely developmentally delayed. It can be hard to get through to them, even with toys and games. But the moment I start singing, suddenly they’re looking at me and smiling like I’m the only person in the room. The melody and rhythm is like a secret language and they are so excited that I can speak it. And singing not only helps me connect with and calm them, but also helps me motivate and encourage them. Hand washing is more fun to a tune and tooth brushing becomes bearable when you’re singing the ABCs. My repertoire of songs is definitely different from when I sang in choir (“The Wheels on the Bus” is a huge hit with the under three crowd) but the joy I get from singing is the same. I am forever grateful to the San Diego Children’s Choir for helping me find my voice and giving me a skill I use every day, and one that I’ll continue to use for the rest of my life.”
We hear many varied stories like these from our alumni but it all comes down to one thing–children thrive when music education is a part of their development. It increases their confidence, improves their music abilities, and gives them a wealth of quality experiences to use as a foundation for their future.
Last year, I worked with a team to participate in a research study by the Gumpert Foundation to explore the impact of our choral program. After interviewing 20 middle school and high school youth who had been in choir for more than three years, we learned that choristers developed a sense of accomplishment and belonging, and saw themselves as teammates and know that when they work together they can make magnificent music. We also found that 79% of choristers reported that they “usually or always have a feeling of overall well-being” now as compared with only 55% of students reporting that they had this feeling before joining choir. These benefits, along with developing music literacy and a healthy vocal technique, will last these children a lifetime.
When you participate in choir, or in a band (instrumental or vocal group music making), you don’t just watch, listen to, or appreciate the music; you are creating it. And you are developing important abilities within yourself that will last you a lifetime.
San Diego is rich with musical offerings for children. Whether it is the San Diego Children’s Choir, the San Diego Youth Symphony or Gilbert Castellanos’ Young Lions Jazz Conservatory program, there’s a music program out there for children of all ages, interests and skill levels. When you give your child the gift of music, it will last them a lifetime.
If you’d like to share some news related to children and music, please email me at ccottriall@sdcChoir.org.