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Success Academy Youth Chorus Brings Peace, Harmony — and Hot Chocolate to the Stage
Sadie Pincus – December 22, 2017
Last week, the lights dimmed and a hush fell over a large crowd of parents gathered behind me in Success Academy Williamsburg’s auditorium. Fifty middle schoolers walked down the aisles and processed to the stage, singing “Seed to Sow,” a song about making an impact on the world, in perfect harmony. Across the auditorium, I saw parents faces light up with proud smiles.
Three months of hard work — Sunday rehearsals at SA Union Square and practicing notes at home — had lead to this moment for the fourth, fifth, and sixth grade members of the Success Academy Youth Chorus, which I direct with Ms. Willey. Our 50 scholars come from across the network and for many, the chorus was their first time singing with a group. We began with auditions in September to find raw talent: scholars who were able to sing on pitch, echo a musical pattern we gave them, and really sell their audience on the song.
It’s been incredible to watch them develop as a group. In the beginning, they struggled with two-part harmonies. But a few weeks in, we had a breakthrough and came together in perfect harmonization. I watched their eyes light up with excitement as they realized that their hard work was paying off — and discovered the joy of a perfect harmony.
Ms. Willey and I have also been so grateful for the commitment of our chorus parents. They’ve travelled from the far reaches of Brooklyn and Queens to SA Union Square for two-hour rehearsals every Sunday. They’ve been there to help us assemble and break down chairs, and they always ask how they can support them to practice at home.
Last week’s performance included everything from an upbeat winter holiday medley song (including a reference to — what else? — hot chocolate!), to a Hebrew song of peace that moved some members of the audience to tears.
You can listen to scholars perform the song Shalom Aleichem (Peace Be With You) — and below, you’ll hear from the scholars and parents who made our performance possible.
Fifth grader, SA Midtown West Middle School
“Performing with the Network Chorus has taught me to never give up and keep trying — and to always sing with a powerful voice. We’ve learned to follow the conductors directions because those directions help us sing the right notes, and how to stop or start a musical sentence. When we first started, we did easy and familiar songs, then we learned harder ones. At first we focused on just our vocals, but then we learned about the signs Ms. Pincus makes and how to read her facial expressions to know when to stop, bring our voices higher or go lower. I’ve learned so much!”
Fourth-grader, SA Bergen Beach (center)
“My earliest memory of singing is when I was six years old. My mom turned on the Bruno Mars song “That’s What I Like” and I sang along. And I sang it pretty well! I like singing because you can express your voice and feelings. For this performance, we’re singing a song called “Winter Blast” that mentions hot chocolate — hot chocolate is so awesome! In the future, I want to dance and sing — I really like Sam Smith. He has a good voice and expresses his feelings when he sings.”
Mother of SA Crown Heights fourth-grader Allanis Smith
“The way they sound all together is amazing! They’ve grown in confidence since they’ve been practicing. At the audition, my daughter was so worried about singing in front of a group of people. This is her first time singing in a chorus. Every Sunday, we drive about 40 minutes to drop her off at rehearsal — and on Saturday we drive to chess practice. It’s worth it. I’m going to need tissues when I hear them perform tonight!”
Fifth-grader, SA Hudson Yard Middle School
“I was so happy when I got into this chorus, even though I didn’t expect to make it. This showcase came up so quick! But I feel prepared for tonight. Ms. Pincus really helped me. I’ve known her almost my whole life — she’s been my music teacher since I started at SA Williamsburg. She makes learning songs fun, but she also wants us to sing our best, so she’s serious sometimes. When I sing I feel confident now. I think songs can help you feel happy — if I feel bad, I can take a song, keep it in my mind and when I think about it, I feel better. I love the song we sang last year for our graduation ceremony called “How Far I’ll Go” from the movie Moana, which told us to stay strong.”
Father of SA Upper West fourth-grader Ansan Friedman
“Ansan loves the opportunity to sing and we love it when SA provides access to the arts for our children. There’s a lot of uses for music education beyond the music itself — it’s such an important part of a well-rounded education and helps students academically, too. He’s thrilled to be a part of this chorus and have a chance to sing with kids from his school, and also meet new kids from around the network.”