OperaDelaware’s Neighborhood Choir Program gets $15,000 grant

Oberle Neighborhood Choir students practicing songs and musicianship skills with their director, Nicolette Fernandez.
Oberle Neighborhood Choir students practicing songs and musicianship skills with their director, Nicolette Fernandez.

OperaDelaware announced  its Neighborhood Choir program has received $15,000 from the Arsht-Cannon Fund.  The funding  will ensure that this program for children in underserved communities remains strong and viable in 2016, a release stated.

Approximately 150 children are part of  school programs at Lewis Elementary School and the Latin American Community Center in Wilmington, and at Oberle Elementary School in Bear.  The project is overseen by Kimberly Doucette, OperaDelaware’s education director.  Doucette also is artistic director for the 150-member Wilmington Children’s Chorus.

“We are delighted to continue this program, and we’re grateful that the Arsht-Cannon Fund recognizes the importance of delivering high-quality music education to students in underserved communities,” said OperaDelaware General Director Brendan Cooke.  “These dollars ensure that we eliminate any barriers children might face in receiving after-school music training.”

Cooke added that those barriers sometimes can be significant.

“Consider a child who loves to sing, but whose parents work long hours after school or can’t afford music training. Under this program, transportation and financial barriers are eliminated simply by bringing the choir training to the school or community center.”

This “satellite-site” model for musical training has been used with great success as exemplified by the Chicago Children’s Choir’s use of neighborhood choirs.  By having community center or school staff participate in the operation of the program, children are assured they receive the support they need to attend rehearsals and practice the music.

Students in this year’s Neighborhood Choirs, who range in age from Kindergarten to fifth grade, are getting ready for their winter concerts.

“While the students are eager to show all they’ve learned, we also know this program is more than concerts,” Doucette said.  “In our work with the Wilmington Children’s Chorus, we’ve learned that exposure to musical training and the arts can be life-changing for children in underserved communities. This project makes it easy for more children to grow through a curriculum that values beautiful singing and musicianship while developing leadership, focus and positive social interaction.”

“The WCC is very gifted at training young voices,” Cooke said. “We believe that the musical foundation and solid vocal technique that the WCC provides will increase our pool of talented singers and, perhaps more importantly, future audience members who are excited and moved by the sound of the unamplified human voice. That’s a win for us, for the arts community, and for the students as well.”

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