Contrary to the impression you may get from TV singing competitions designed to turn unknown singers into pop stars, vocal music doesn’t begin and end with belting solos in the spotlight. Singing as part of an ensemble can be just as rewarding and challenging as singing alone, with the added benefit of teaching valuable lessons about collaboration.
The Chippewa Valley Youth Chorus, now in its second year, was created to help children grow musically and socially. Its founders, music educators Cathy Reitz and Nick Poss, also want to give young people the opportunity to experience the joy of music.
“No one has to be perfect, no one has to be the star, but together you create an awesome product,” says Reitz, who spent 33 years teaching music in public and private schools, most recently at DeLong Middle School in Eau Claire.
Reitz had previously been involved with the Chippewa Valley Youth Choirs, which at its peak had 250 to 300 children in multiple choirs. However, that entity disbanded a few years ago, leaving a void. Last year, Reitz decided to help fill the gap, and she approached Poss, owner of the Eau Claire Music School, 1620 Ohm Ave. Together they launched the Chippewa Valley Youth Chorus in the fall of 2016 to provide musical and social experience for young singers. The ensemble began with just 10 singers, and has since grown to 24. It is open to boys and girls in first through seventh grades. Through performing songs from a broad repertoire, the singers learn about healthy vocal production (i.e., how to sing without damaging your voice), how to read music, as well as how to perform in a group.
Reitz sees the choir as a supplement to the music education kids receive at school. In general, she said, Eau Claire elementary students take general music classes while middle schoolers have to choose among band, choir, orchestra, or general music. In other words, the Chippewa Valley Youth Chorus can provide an outlet for kids who don’t otherwise have the opportunity to sing in an ensemble.
“People benefit from singing together. I don’t care if you’re 7 or you’re 70,” Reitz says. (And she’s got experience all along that age spectrum: In addition to directing the youth chorus, she directs the Chippewa Valley Community Chorus, which is open to all adults, and the Stand in the Light Memory Choir, a chorus that includes people with dementia.)
“I see the benefits of singing in choirs that range from making friends to feeling good about yourself to becoming a better musician,” Reitz adds. Those who’ve experienced the joy of harmonizing with a group of friends know that lifting your voice can be a good way to lift your spirit, too.
WANT TO JOIN?
The Chippewa Valley Youth Chorus is open to boys and girls in first through seventh grades with no audition required. The chorus is already up and running for the fall, but students are welcome to join for the spring semester, which starts Jan. 8. Rehearsals are 6pm every Monday. Tuition is $169 per semester, but discounts are available for current Eau Claire Music School students and their siblings. Learn more at eauclairemusicschool.com (click on “Group Classes”) or call (715) 514-0475.
WANT TO WATCH?
The Chippewa Valley Youth Chorus will perform alongside the Chippewa Valley Ukulele Orchestra at 6:30pm on Monday, Nov. 13, at Spirit Lutheran Church, 1310 Main St., Eau Claire. The concert is free. In addition, the chorus will perform on Monday, Jan. 15, at part of the community’s Martin Luther King Jr. holiday program.