From Cecile Oreste of danceDC
The Congressional Chorus and American Youth Chorus will come together to perform “Cinemagic: Great Choral Works from the Silver Screen” tomorrow, Saturday, June 4, at 8 pm at National City Christian Church on Thomas Circle NW. The concert will feature pieces from popular movies including Harry Potter, Star Wars, The Sound of Music, Working Girl and more. Tickets are $25 general admission.
Artistic Director David Simmons provides more information about the two Chorus groups and why they are important to the area’s youth.
Borderstan: Tell us about The Congressional Chorus and the American Youth Chorus.
Simmons: The Congressional Chorus was started in 1987 by a small group of Capitol Hill staffers who wanted to get together and sing. Today, the chorus has about 70 members from all professions and from all parts of the city. We’re incredibly diverse — our youngest member is 16 years old, while some members are in their late 70’s. Did I mention we’re bipartisan?
In 2008, we saw that many school districts in the area were cutting arts programs. In response, we started the American Youth Chorus (AYC), a program for kids eight to 14 to learn about choral music, as well as develop their voices, creativity and self-esteem.
It’s taken off in ways we could’ve never imagined – the kids have sung at the Kennedy Center, the State Department and the White House. The AYC sang for the 2010 Kennedy Center Honorees at the official Honors Dinner and got applause from none other than Sir Paul McCartney! Our expressed mission is to celebrate the spirit, diversity and power of American choral music, and we have a lot of fun doing it.
Borderstan: How can those interested become part of the organization?
Simmons: The Congressional Chorus rehearses Monday evenings from 7 to 9:30 pm at the Atlas Performing Arts Center, 1333 H Street NE. The junior division of the American Youth Chorus rehearses there after school on Tuesday afternoons and the senior division on Thursday afternoons. We’d love to hear you sing! If you are interested in auditioning for the Congressional Chorus or have a child age eight to 14 who might be interested in AYC, please contact Debby McConnell at Debby_McConnell@congressionalchorus.org.
Borderstan: Why is arts education important?
Simmons: In this economy, school choral programs are under siege — competition for school dollars, time in the school day and a narrow focus on just a few subjects covered on standardized tests have all hit school arts programs hard. The American Youth Chorus grew out of our concern that music education was disappearing from the public schools, particularly in low-income neighborhoods in D.C., Maryland and Virginia.
The importance of music and other creative arts in helping children develop has been long established. Music education boosts student achievement, stimulates creativity and innovation and above all creates a sense of community and belonging.
Borderstan: What can people do to support arts education?
Simmons: Donations to American Youth Chorus will go directly to serving children in D.C. who have never had music instruction before. You can give online. Second, we always need volunteers to help with concert and rehearsal logistics, to act as fund-raisers with corporations and government organizations and to serve as mentors for the kids. Lastly, educate your community. Let your local school board know how important the arts are to young people. Be sure to make your opinion known when school budgets are being drawn up!