Helping Kids to Find Their Voice


Event: Jacksonville Childrens’ Chorus and Kristin Chenoweth

Location: Times-Union Center Moran Theatre

Date/Time: November 14,

Tickets: $35+

Contact:, 800-745-3000,


In celebration of helping kids to find their voice for the last 20 years, the Jacksonville Children’s Chorus is celebrating their anniversary with a guest performance by Emmy and Tony Award-Winning actress and singer Kristin Chenoweth in her Coming Home Tour. The concert features performances by all JCC choirs November 14th at the Times-Union Center’s Moran Theatre.

Kristin Chenoweth Approved HeadshotChenoweth will release her first live CD Coming Home on November 17th followed by a PBS concert special airing on November 28th. The 15-song album captures a live performance of Broadway classics, timeless pop standards, and contemporary material at the Kristin Chenoweth Theatre in the Broken Arrow Performing Arts Center in her hometown of Broken Arrow, OK.

“She is an extraordinary performer and the female Broadway star today. The main reason we are bringing in these guest artists is for the kids. We want to inspire the kids. They will walk away from that performance thinking, ‘Wow, I can do that,’ or at least they’re inspired to try and do that,” says Artistic and Executive Director Darren Dailey. “That’s what my number one hope is for my singers because after that concert, they are going to come in pumped up and maybe raise our artistic standard even higher.” By partnering with such accomplished artists as Kristin Chenoweth, the JCC also helps drive people to attend events downtown where new restaurants, live music, and other entertainment opportunities continue to develop.

Starting the Friday after Thanksgiving through the New Year, the JCC will illuminate its offices at 225 E. Duval Street with holiday lights that will be synchronized with the children’s holiday choral music. “When people are looking for things to do in the month of December with their family, take a trip downtown to see the Jacksonville Children’s Chorus twinkle with lights,” he says. “It’s going to be quite a sight to see.”

It’s also a great revenue generator for the children’s chorus and raises the profile by getting audiences to attend a performance that might not otherwise. “When they come to these concerts and they hear us for the first time, they realize this is not a kiddie choir. This is a professional level children’s choir.”

As arts programs continue to disappear from school curriculums, Dailey says resources like the children’s chorus are vital for academic success, confidence building, and appreciation of music and live performance. “The reason the children’s chorus is growing is that parents not only want a musical or artistic experience for their kids, but they want one that is truly excellent where they’re not only going to get great instruction, but they are going to be exposed to a wide variety of genres of music and some of the world’s best performing artists,” says Dailey.

“We’ve certainly expanded the number of public performances for self-produced concerts each year from two major concerts a year to five or six. We’ve introduced the model where we do the first half of the concert and bring in a guest artist for the second half of the show and then close the concert with a joint concert together.”

JCC-MLK-medDailey is celebrating his own anniversary since he took the helm of the Jacksonville Children’s Chorus, marking the beginning of his 10th season in January. A nationally-recognized clinician and conductor, Dailey received 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 and is also trained in Kindermusik.

As the founding artistic director of the Boston Children’s Chorus, Dailey and his chorus appeared as the host chorus on the television special, Raising the Roof: A Celebration of the Life of Martin Luther King, Jr. in Song. He received the Reinhold Foundation Outstanding Executive Director Award and has produced four recordings, including Amani Celebration, a limited-edition collection of holiday songs from 15 children’s choirs to benefit African children orphaned because of the HIV/AIDS epidemic.

Under his artistic leadership, JCC membership exceeds 500 First Coast children annually with multiple satellite rehearsal locations and regional outreach programs including a free music program for preschool children and their caregivers. He hopes to expand the young men’s chorus this year and establish a second touring ensemble to continue the mission to provide opportunities for kids to realize their musical potential.

“Our hope is that by that initial experience that we establish that singing needs to be part of the home life at a very early age. Kids begin to find their singing voice and begin to match pitch by three years old. We start formal music education in this country really when children are four and five years old so that window of opportunity that can be easily missed unless the parents are informed that it doesn’t matter how good of a voice you have, it’s a matter that you’re including this activity in your home life.”

Admission to one of the five core performances choirs is determined by audition. Those that don’t earn placement are invited to participate in a vocal exploration class, a non-performing class to help develop their vocal skills and prepare for the entry-level training choir. Members can advance to the intermediate lyric choir and treble choir before moving on to the concert choir. The top 24 students from the concert choir in grades 6-12 make up the elite touring ensemble.

“These are the kids who have performed at Carnegie Hall and performed with the National Children’s Choir of Ireland and St. Peters Basilica. They are going to Sweden, Finland, Russia, Germany, and Estonia this summer,” he says. “Because of this experience, singing will always be a major part of their life whether it’s in college, singing in a church or synagogue choir, being a member of the symphony chorus or becoming karaoke stars, who knows. We’re creating musical leaders. Whether they are professional or amateur, they are still going to be leaders. Singing is just part of who they are.” Be sure to catch these rising stars along with Kristin Chenoweth on November 14th.

About Liza Mitchell