Singing their hearts out
Vail, CO, Colorado
BEAVER CREEK ” A big city like Chicago can be intimidating to anyone, especially to young kids short on experience but big on dreams. Lauren Robinson grew up on the south side of the city and at age 6 she found a release from an often distressing urban landscape ” she joined a choir. But not just any choir, the Chicago Children’s Choir.
Like many small children, Robinson was full of energy and creativity, and needed an outlet for both. Her mother saw the choir as an amazing opportunity for Robinson and wasted no time getting her daughter enrolled. After auditioning and making the cut, Robinson’s life would be changed forever.
“It’s an amazing opportunity … and it just introduced me to so much,” Robinson said of her time with the choir.
Now 17 and in her eleventh year with the Chicago Children’s Choir, she is about to graduate from their ranks having excelled in the highest levels of the program, but she will never forget what she has learned from the music education program.
“I feel blessed to be able to be in an organization that introduces and focuses upon putting everyone on the same level and embracing other people’s differences through music,” Robinson said.
And she’s not the only one. The Chicago Children’s Choir, nearly 3,000 children strong and growing, serves the city’s communities through cultural and musical understanding. It’s part social experiment and part educational program. Working with kids ages 8-18 from many different backgrounds, experiences, ethnicity’s, economic circumstances and cultures, the music program is able to teach students the importance of respecting and understanding all forms of music and the societies they come from.
Founded in 1956 by the late Christopher Moore, the Chicago Children’s Choir has grown from a handful of kids into a large and diverse musical program that has toured much of the world and even released an album called “Open Up Your Eyes.”
Saturday night in Beaver Creek 50 kids will perform a program that celebrates music with origins in Memphis Tennessee all the way to South Africa.
“First of all you’re going to be blown away. Their talent and ability and stage presence is ” you can’t imagine how good it’s going to be,” said Davin Peelle, director or marketing and public relations for the Chicago Children’s Choir.
Peelle has only been with the CCC for about a year, but in that time has seen the children grow wiser and more talented. He said that no matter what part of the city the kids come from, they all have a common vision and share the same values of the program.
“They’re some of the most amazing kids you’ll ever meet. Just great heads on their shoulders, incredible poise, incredible confidence about their impact on the world. And just seeing that all of them are like that is a testament that coming up to the program clearly gives that to them,” Peelle said.
Now that Robinson has spent most of her life blending her voice with thousands of others, she is about to have to find her own voice in the “real world.” She is confident though that the musical skills she has learned in the Chicago Children’s Choir will guide her to a good college where she can continue to study musical theater. Maybe one day, on to Broadway.
One of Robinson’s peers, Leo Daube, splits up his priority list between going to Hinsdale Central High School and the Chicago Children’s Choir. He’s been involved with the organization for nine years and said that the biggest lesson he has learned is to keep an open mind about music and life. Daube also knows that the choir has afforded him opportunities that otherwise would never have been possible.
“The experiences that we get are definitely one of a kind, that you wouldn’t find anywhere else,” Daube said.
Like any teenager he has his own musical tastes and digs indie rock bands like Animal Collective; but he’s also proud that he got the chance to sing with Celine Dion and to the King of Jordan ” two things that most kids his age could never even imagine doing. He wants to major in ethnomusicology, the study of social and cultural aspects of music and dance in local and global contexts.
“I definitely want music to be a part of my future,” Daube said.
He has the Chicago Children’s Choir to thank for at least part of that desire.
High Life writer Charlie Owen can be reached at 748-2939 or email@example.com.