Choir and Community: Youth Chorus and Retirement Residence Join Forces to Spread Joy!
by Florence Gassler Scattergood
Choruses love to sing. That’s why they exist. Singers enjoy the way vocal exercises soothe our being, improving our technique to enable us to express ourselves with greater beauty and ease. We are drawn to poetry in the lyrics, increasing our capacity for empathy and understanding of world around us. The freedom and joy of uniting our best voices, our best selves, with those around us who feel the same are both inspiring and exhilarating for singers of all ages.
Choral singing is a special experience which enables a group of strangers to unite with one purpose. Since talent is no respecter of socio-economic status, physical or mental capacity, or religious or political conviction, a choir is the place where all participants can be valued for their individual commitment to the collective production of beautiful music.
There is a unique sense of belonging and well-being that comes from singing in a choir. There is a physical sensation of connectivity in a room where all are focused on using their voices in the same way at the same time. Adding beautiful melodies, pleasing harmonies, and well-crafted lyrics to this commitment to vocal unity elevates the experience to choral artistry.
Special relationships develop within a choral setting; director with singers, singers with singers, and singers with the audience. Lifelong friendships and unexpected collaborations fuel and motivate all involved. Studies even show that those involved in choral singing early in life become significantly more active in philanthropy, civic affairs, and volunteerism as adults than the general population.
I have had the delight and pleasure of spending my professional career immersed in these experiences surrounded by singers. As a choir member and an ensemble director, I can testify that not every minute of every rehearsal generates the perfect moment of musicality or significant meaning, but the sharing of the vision and the striving toward excellence always propels us as we move toward our goal of becoming musically literate vocal artists. The process is the daily bread which feeds my soul. To my delight it is also feeding the souls of those who are eavesdropping.
This fall a unique partnership began between the Youth Chorus of Central Texas and Stilwell Retirement Residence. With the gracious hospitality of Joel Wright, the Executive Director of Stilwell Retirement Residence, and the generous support of the Stilwell staff, fifty young choristers from roughly 20 schools are welcomed every Monday afternoon to their fine facility for weekly practice. It is also when and where we build commUNITY.
Singers and their parents from all over the city converge on Stilwell for rehearsal and are greeted by new friends. When I enter the building, the room is set up and ready for our lively singers who range in age from third through tenth grade. Our Baylor and WISD interns arrive early to prep for the singers as does our pianist. Stilwell staff are ready to help with our logistical and clerical needs.
We rehearse adjacent to the dining room and residents regularly peek in to see and hear us. Sometimes we venture into the dining room and sing newly polished songs. The ladies and gentlemen are a gracious and supportive audience. They tell us stories of their personal musical adventures and encourage and compliment our efforts. We have shared Halloween goodies with them and are sure Christmas will include some sort of celebration as well. Several YCCT members and parents have made inquiries as to volunteer opportunities with our new friends. This is a delightful development.
We arrived at this partnership out of necessity. The YCCT is a community chorus; we are not affiliated with any particular school, church, or major institution. We do not have a permanent home. It is important for us to have a central location which is welcoming to our culturally diverse membership. The Stilwell family has welcomed us with open arms and the YCCT families enjoy coming to Stilwell. Our parents can wait for their children on site or visit the public library or do some shopping nearby.
We entered into this partnership for the purpose of having a rehearsal space and have actually found a home, complete with enthusiastic and nurturing eavesdroppers who share our joy and passion for feeding souls through song.
Since 2013, YCCT has served over 100 singers from approximately 25 schools providing music for the PACK of HOPE, Meals and Wheels, Waco Cultural Arts Festival, and the Interfaith Holocaust Remembrance Service. The choir received the 2014 Model of Unity Award from the Community Race Relations Coalition of Waco. Please visit www.youthchorusofcentraltexas.org for information on SPRING AUDITIONS.
Florence Gassler Scattergood and her husband Bob live in her childhood home with their cat Cougar. She is currently an adjunct lecturer at Baylor University and is co-founder/director of the Youth Chorus of Central Texas with Lynne Gackle. Florence enjoys reading, cooking, traveling, and socializing with the neighbors. For her professional bio visit www.youthchorusofcentraltexas.org.
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