Sunday, February 8, 2009

YPC Erie Rehearsals Begin!

After months of preparation, marketing, fundraising, and hundreds of auditions, the Young People's Chorus of Erie officially began rehearsals on January 12, 2009 with over 100 young choristers enrolled in three ensembles: high school, middle school, and elementary. Our choirs are incredibly diverse, representing a true cross-section of young people from a wide variety of backgrounds throughout the city and county of Erie, and the broader region of northwestern Pennsylvania. We have some students who walk around the corner to their rehearsal site, while others travel from as far away as Fairview, Edinboro, and Saegertown.

Our first major recruitment event in November 2008, the Northwest Songfest, generated a lot of buzz and excitement as we prepared for rehearsal launch just two months later. While teachers participated in workshops and group discussions, over 120 students participated in a day of rehearsals and other activities with guest conductors culminating in an evening concert with over 500 people in attendance. Here are some of the pictures from that event:

Our elementary chorus, for ages 7-10, rehearses on Thursdays 4:30-6:30pm at the Cathedral of St. Paul with conductor Sharon Downey. These beginning young singers are getting to know each other, and they have already accomplished amazing things in a very short amount of time. As I visit these rehearsals, I have particularly enjoyed observing the ethnic diversity represented by the children in the room. At one point Sharon asked her choristers how many of them could speak a language other than English, and the responses were astounding: Spanish, Portuguese, Albanian, & Polish, just to name a few. The rehearsal room looks like a model United Nations!

Our middle school chorus, for ages 10-14, rehearses on Tuesdays 4:30-6:30pm at St. John's Lutheran Church with conductor Michael Dean. One of the most impressive things about this chorus is the wide range of experiences represented - the potential for friendships and mentorships among these widely different choristers is truly exciting. At the conclusion of rehearsals, there always seem to be large clusters of students grouped together who really enjoy each other's friendship and don't want to leave - and it's especially exciting to see unlikely friendships developing as well, among different ages, races, and backgrounds. The middle school choristers are really enjoying Michael's repertoire selections, even deciding to name their chorus after a Portuguese phrase in one of their pieces. (We'll reveal chorus names soon - stay tuned!)

Our high school chorus, for ages 14-18, rehearses both Mondays & Wednesdays 4:30-6:30pm in the Smith Chapel at Penn State Erie, the Behrend College. These more advanced young singers, who rehearse twice per week, are absolutely craving challenge and respond enthusiastically to everything I give them! We're working on a wide variety of music, from American gospel spirituals to Dravidian music to traditional songs of Zambia. As the high school choristers get to know each other in the process, we are really enjoying the diversity of our group and the energy it brings to our rehearsals. At our last rehearsal, I asked the singers a question: "What does YPC mean to you?" The answers were impressive: "opportunity," "possibility," "a fresh start," "something brand new," "diversity," "possibility" and the list goes on. It was clear that our high school choristers understand that they are a part of history in the making; they see what a pivotal moment this is for them and for our region. They embrace their similarities as well as their differences, and they recognize the potential of this new opportunity and the message it sends to our community. I'm so proud of them for choosing to be the very first members of YPC Erie!

For more information about the Young People's Chorus of Erie, call (814) 898-6789, e-mail, or visit

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