I have always believed that all kids are capable of making music. When I stepped into the role of program manager of music at Success Academy, this was the driving force behind my desire to launch the network’s first K-12 choir. Backed by our passionate and dedicated scholar talent team — who work every day to ensure that our scholars have access to best-in-class opportunities in the arts, debate, and chess — I set out to encourage young musicians of all ages to audition.
The response was exciting and encouraging, with hundreds of children giving it their all to be part of this new group. We asked them to submit a recording of themselves singing 45-90 seconds of a song of their choosing. The song choice needed to demonstrate two important skills: voice and versatility. Vocalists were graded on intonation, tone and vocal production, and musical and facial expressivity. We received some impressive — and sometimes purely adorable — audition takes.
We received almost 350 submissions and made the difficult decisions of selecting a smaller subset of scholars for callbacks. The final count of the K-12 choir: 75 K-3 scholars, 30 G4-G10 scholars, and a handful of juniors and seniors. Auditions and performances take preparation, confidence, and self-assuredness, the same skills needed to persevere in academics; in fact, music really speaks to our educational philosophy.
Now that rehearsals have begun, 109 voices must work together as one unit. Scholars are learning to listen across the room and in the moment, especially when I can provide them with real-time feedback on vocals and ask them to share what they’re noticing about the music and the lyrics. So far, I’m impressed with what I’m hearing, and I can’t wait for them to show off their growth and collaborative singing in the coming months!
Rodney Long is the program manager of music at Success Academy Charter Schools.