Many people think they just can't sing. But, now in its 32nd year, the Indiana University Children's Choir is proving that all you have to do is start young. The choir offers classes for singers from kindergarten through eighth grade.
What Does It Mean To Sing?
It's a cold December Sunday afternoon in St. John the Apostle Catholic Church in Bloomington. In the front of the room a group of children, some as young as three years old, are singing together as the sun streams through the stained glass windows. They're the youngest members of the Indiana University Children's Choir. Today is their Winter Concert.
Brent Gault is the choir's Program Director. "Our youngest group is called First Voices, and that's typically for kindergarten and first grade singers. We're really just introducing them to the idea of 'What does it mean to sing?' They move, they keep the beat, they do a lot of things just to get them experienced with music in an active and playful way."
To wrap up the song "Mister Rabbit," the children hop offstage like bunnies into an enthusiastic round of applause.
Inspiration And Communication
"Then when we move to second and third grade," Brent continues, "we have a group called the Descant Choir. That group is kind of our first, I guess, for lack of a better term, more of a traditional choral ensemble."
For middle school kids, choir can be creatively inspiring. Says one young member, "I feel like I've learned everything. Like, a lot of songs I like to sing. It's my favorite thing to do. We make up our own songs, too, with each other." They're inspired by the music they sing here.
"Our only really select group is the top group, the Chamber Choir, and that group is a middle school group for soprano and alto voices. That's the only group where we actually do have a certain set of skills that we ask them to do with regard to ear training, reading."
For older kids, Chamber Choir can be a challenge that sets them up to expect success from everything they do. Part of the strength of this program is that the adults who lead these choirs never underestimate the children they work with.
I love music, and I think music is a form of communication that I think is unique in that it combines text with musical sound to really convey a heightened sense of meaning. I think that composers who really set text to music well have the ability to communicate something very profound to the performer.
Truth, Justice, Peace
I think that when you do this music that's very meaningful, expressive, it causes them to want to strive, to be really excellent at something. And I think that once you get a sense of how it feels to be really good at something, and once you achieve a certain level and really accomplish something, it's hard to go back.
At the end of the program, all four choirs come together. Their voices fill the church.
The lyrics, Al shlosha d'varim, mean, "The existence of the world is based on three things: on truth, on justice, and on peace." The great truth and justice of learning to sing at a young age, Brent says, is that anyone can do it.
"Singing is a learned behavior. If you start early with children, singing is just like any activity that involves muscle control: With the right experience, the right opportunities, anyone can sing."