by Kellie Abrahamson
We want our kids to get great test scores, have access to cutting edge technology and grow up to be well-rounded individuals. But each year budgets get slashed and schools have to go through the agonizing process of figuring out what they need to cut in order to teach their charges. Many times, it’s the arts that are on the chopping block, with music education being one of the first to go. That’s where organizations like the Jacksonville Children’s Chorus come in. For over 15 years the JCC has provided First Coast children the opportunity to learn music outside of the classroom and share the beauty of song with their community and beyond.
The Jacksonville Children’s Chorus formed in 1995 at Jacksonville University with only a handful of performers. Today the program has grown exponentially: approximately 400 children from all across Northeast Florida, and from all walks of life, participate in the JCC each season. The kids of the Chorus have performed in just about every venue in the greater Jacksonville area and have even taken to the road, touring the southeastern states. When asked his most memorable moment since joining the JCC team five seasons ago, Artistic and Executive Director Darren Dailey pointed to no doubt the Chorus’ biggest coups yet: gracing the Carnegie Hall stage in 2008 and performing at Lincoln Center last summer.
“Watching the kids walk off the stage after performing at Carnegie Hall or Lincoln Center; they didn’t really walk off, they floated off,” Dailey recalls. “They were on cloud nine and were so proud of their accomplishments and took such pride in a really extraordinary performance.”
Dailey has an extensive music education background, including a Bachelor of Music Education degree with a concentration in Voice from Westminster Choir College and a Master of Music Education in Choral Conducting from Appalachian State University’s Hayes School of Music. He was also the founding Artistic Director of the Boston Children’s Chorus before moving on to Jacksonville.
“I think there is a level of commitment to artistic excellence,” Dailey says of the JCC’s success thus far. “I think setting that bar high really attracts kids and parents who want to perform at their very best. I think there’s a sense of family here, that everyone’s welcome. I think that’s an important piece. I think a lot of folks who love to sing want to represent their city and being a member of the Jacksonville Children’s Chorus, we’re really musical ambassadors for the city of Jacksonville and Northeast Florida.”
The Jacksonville Children’s Chorus is open to kids in grades 1 through 12 who have a love for singing. While no formal training is required, it is an audition-based program, so the ability to carry a tune is necessary. The young singers chosen to join the JCC will then be placed into one of three levels: the Training Choir, open to boys and girls who are in grades 1- 5, which teaches fundamental music theory and skills; the Treble Choir, where intermediate-level singers develop music reading skills and continue to build on healthy vocal production; and the Concert Choir, the JCC’s most advanced choir where there’s a more intense concentration on performance. There is also a non-auditioned music class for first through fourth grade students called the Vocal Exploration Program. The ten week class includes learning musical skills, group singing and play-like activities and games.
The JCC’s next big performance will be Celebramos, a musical journey through Brazil, Mexico, Argentina, Chile and other Latin countries. Dailey says that in addition to the Chorus, Latin dancers will also perform as well as guest artist Cuarteto del Sur, a quartet featuring two guitarists and two percussionists. The concert will be held on April 10th at the Jacoby Symphony Hall in the Times-Union Center.
For a complete look at the Jacksonville Children’s Chorus’ upcoming performances or to find out how your child can audition, visit www.jaxchildrenschorus.com. There, you can also book a performance, purchase music or donate funds to keep this terrific program going and growing.
“I think the cat is out of the bag,” Dailey says. “Our training choirs are at capacity now… It’s an exciting place to be and I’m just hoping we find additional funding to match our growth.”
The Kids of the Chorus
by Kellie Abrahamson