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Tuesday, Dec. 1, 2009

Milwaukee Children’s Choir: A Season of Songs

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As southeastern Wisconsin’s premier professional children’s choir, Milwaukee Children’s Choir (MCC) offers kids from across the metropolitan area an opportunity to join in the fun of choral singing and learn some valuable life skills as well. Carol Storck, who took over as artistic director in July, brings a passion for the music and the effect it can have on children’s lives.

What concerts are planned for the holiday season?

MCC is very busy in December. Our primary concert is our own. At 2 p.m. on Sunday, Dec. 6, we present “A Festival of Winter Spirit” at the South Milwaukee Performing Arts Center. We encourage everyone to escape the hustle and bustle of December and enjoy a winter festival with us.

In addition, we sing at every performance of the Milwaukee Ballet’s Nutcracker. We are also returning to one of our favorite concerts: Festival City Symphony’s “Pajama Jamboree.” And we’ll be caroling too, sending singers and their families to the “Christmas in the Ward” breakfast with Santa at the Skylight Opera, a St. Benedict the Moor community meal, the Shops of Grand Avenue with the Holiday Lights Jingle Bus, Candy Cane Lane, and between performances of The Best Christmas Pageant Ever at First Stage Children’s Theater. We are always busy, but especially during the holidays.

How does the choir focus on developing kids’ academic and life skills through music?

I am glad you asked this question, since I think people don’t always consider all of the ways singing in a choir can benefit children. A recent review of Milwaukee Public Schools (MPS) learning targets revealed that MCC participation involves many MPS learning targets at each grade level. Choral singing is a mind and body activity. In addition to addressing music education, choral singing emphasizes the importance of physical health and healthy choices. Especially in younger choir levels, it emphasizes movement and games and activities. All choral singing involves listening carefully, following direction and exhibiting self-control. It requires respect of oneself and others, and depends on teamwork. Choral singing involves mathematical patterns. It requires reading with expression and using phonics to learn unfamiliar words. Because MCC repertoire comes from different cultures and historical periods, choir teaches children how cultures influence communities, how history is connected to culture, and how history and culture affect all of us.

How does the choir reach out to children in areas that are underserved by arts organizations?

We want MCC to be open to all area children, and we want to represent the entire area. Years ago MCC determined that it needed to do outreach to children in areas that lacked adequate arts programming. Today we have programs in Milwaukee Public Schools both in and out of the classroom, reaching almost 200 students. And we have a very liberal tuition aid policy. We’ve never turned away a child for financial reasons. As a result, the last time we measured our data we learned that our choir members come from more than 60 ZIP codes and more than 150 schools.

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