- Tell us about why you started the NCC in Los Angeles and how it’s grown?
As someone who grew up singing and learning to play the piano since six years old, music was always a big part of me. While I loved performing on stage in recitals and concerts myself, I also noticed how moved I could be when witnessing phenomenal music as a member of the audience. In my teens, I would often dream and fantasize about creating music for others so thrilling and inspiring that it would bring immeasurable joy to everyone who heard it. As fate would have it, during one particular concert at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion in my early twenties (when English was my UCLA major, and law school just ahead), the opening measures of the orchestra that night were so beautiful that I said to myself, “This is it; this is what I want to do for the rest of my life.” There was a knowing that flashed within me at that moment which I now see as a calling, and I have never questioned it or looked back.
In deciding to create the National Children’s Chorus in 2008, I wanted more than anything to provide a place for young musicians to express themselves, engage with world-class collaborators, and be immersed in extraordinary artistry. The result would be experiences for them that were meaningful, connected, and life-changing. To achieve my vision, the organization would have to operate on a level never before attempted in our industry. We would need a large infrastructure that could effectively train young voices consistently and coordinate logistics from across the nation, ultimately allowing students to take the stage at iconic venues and share their music together as one. Thus, the National Children’s Chorus was born, and while its humble beginnings can count only a few members, we now educate more than 1,000 children in seven chapter cities.
- What have been some of the biggest challenges and successes in running and growing this organization nationwide?
I think the most obvious challenges at first were just convincing people of this idea. A cohesive national structure for a world-class children’s chorus had never been done before. It seemed way too big, and much too ambitious. The concept would also require a weekly bicoastal travel schedule for me, along with the associated costs of running our educational programs on opposite sides of the country. The organization was also in a weak financial position, and so the thought of taking this on was risky and daunting to say the least. It’s easy to see why many people were against the idea, and also why several told me with certainty that it couldn’t be done. Luckily, I believed it could be done, and there were a few others who joined me in supporting this vision, as impossible as it seemed.
Looking back at the journey and its many challenges, an appropriate solution appeared for each and every roadblock along the way. For myself, it meant I needed to be open, flexible, and place my trust in the process, which often did not go as I originally planned. Of course, trusting the process became easier as things grew, and I witnessed how issues would work themselves out organically as long as I stayed committed to doing my best. By 2016, the National Children’s Chorus had opened its doors in Washington, D.C., our third chapter, and later that year we received a $1M gift from an anonymous donor who believed in our educational work. Since that time, we have nearly tripled in terms of growth, with strong organizational development, even during the recent pandemic, supported by a first-rate team of over 100 employees.
- How can youth in Inglewood get involved in auditioning for the NCC?
Our auditions are open to every child and this year’s Nationwide Auditions take place on May 21st. Auditions will be held one-on-one online for all chapter cities including Austin, Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Los Angeles, New York City, Washington, D.C., and San Francisco, as well as for select children who live outside our chapter cities. We always want the process to be fun and encouraging which mirrors our teaching principles. We know that auditions can seem nerve-wracking, but in truth we are never looking for finished, polished performances. Instead, we keep our eyes open for students with a passion for music, the willingness to learn, and the commitment it takes to grow within a world-class curriculum. We are extremely proud to say that in addition to music, our students learn life skills during their time at NCC that they can take with them in many avenues of life. This includes being confident in a social environment, disciplined at one’s craft, positively contributing toward one’s community, and more. In addition, the National Children’s Chorus has a long-standing relationship with top-level colleges that offer unique opportunities in conjunction with College Prep 360.
- You recently signed a partnership here in Los Angeles with LAUSD. Tell us about that and how it can help our community of youth?
We are delighted to say that we recently kicked off a partnership with LAUSD called “Project Unison” which grants fully-funded scholarships to gifted students whose families lack access to high-level music training due to various circumstances beyond their control. Studies have shown that musical education is imperative in the well-being of mental and emotional health, which has supercharged this initiative. Though this has been two years in the making, and Los Angeles is the inaugural recipient city (before rolling out to all chapter cities nationwide), we are so excited to begin our work with these amazing new students.
- You have your annual Los Angeles fundraising gala coming up. Why is this so important and how can our readers get involved to attend or support?
The National Children’s Chorus has annual galas in NYC and Los Angeles. The New York Gala was a big success earlier this month and the Los Angeles Gala “All You Need is Love” is taking place on Thursday, May 18th, at the Proper Hotel in Santa Monica. The special thing about our galas is that 100% of the proceeds benefit the NCC’s scholarship fund. We don’t use any of the fundraising money from our galas to cover operating costs or the event itself, which is often the case for many similar non-profit events. We are proud to say that every dollar raised goes directly to the students.
Over the last three years, while we navigated a daunting global crisis, the NCC vividly saw music empowering students to cope, rise above, and ultimately transcend their challenges. In many cases, music made the difference between success and failure; happiness and hopelessness; as well as loneliness and connectedness. At a time when it was so common for young people to experience suffering, NCC students were reporting resilience, joy, creativity and optimism. We know this because we spoke with them, engaged in dialogue, and checked in every single week, both individually and in small groups. What we were hearing and witnessing was astonishing. Needless to say, we learned so much about our students and specifically what they need from us as their mentors. Accordingly, we have taken all of this and allowed it to shape the future of our growing organization, including our top priorities along with music excellence.
As the NCC prepares for a new era and an exceptionally bright future, our upcoming Scholarship Benefit stands to empower our mission and strengthen our impact. For those attending, the May 18th event will include cocktails and hors d’oeuvres, followed by formal sit-down dinner, graced with elegant musical entertainment in honor of The Beatles and an exciting preview of the NCC’s upcoming album to be recorded at Abbey Road Studios in London this July. There are still some tickets available and we invite patrons to visit our website in order to attend or donate.