Around the world in song
Q. How did you get involved with the Children’s Chorus?
A. Hubie [Jones] quickly hired artistic and executive directors. I came on in 2004 as program manager. There was no program at that time, so I was charged with building a system for kids. It became much more focused on peer engagement. Later, I was director of operations, which means I oversaw all the finance components of the organization. I’m a musician by trade but had never tapped on that side of my brain. I still sing. It’s a very important part of my life. I have a master’s in vocal performance from the New England Conservatory of Music. I became executive director in 2009.
Q. Who are the 60 children going to the UK?
A. They are the two top choruses among our 10. The top groups are here at least four hours a week. Two days. Many come in for two hours more on a third day. We give 40 to 50 performances a year, from the Pine Street Inn and local churches to the Boston Pops. We’ll sing at an event the governor is hosting. We sang when President Obama was here.
Q. How often does the chorus travel?
A. We take the kids around the country and the world. We do an international year every other year. We’d go every year but we don’t have the money for that. This is the fourth international trip we’ve taken. We performed in Jordan two years ago as the guests of King Abdullah. Before that, Mexico and Japan. We went to Japan when we were only six months old. Everyone said, you guys are insane. But it was an important statement to the city. We went as invited guests to an international children’s festival and it worked out very well. We sang together with Japanese choirs.
Q. What is the message that you want the chorus to present?
A. They’ll be ambassadors for Boston to the world. Boston is still seen as a tough city for racial discrimination. That’s the perception, and it’s very real outside. They will be a beacon of light, for the lack of a better term, for ourselves to the larger world. Boston is a place that celebrates rich diversity, reflected in the voices and faces of these beautiful kids. You’re taken back when you see diverse kids walking off the [airplane]. We want to rebrand Boston.
I want to talk about what diversity looks like. A good portion of our kids are biracial. About a third of them are black, 38 percent white, 11 percent Latino, and seven percent Asian. One is blind, another is in a wheelchair. About half come from households with incomes $65,000 or less. We want rich diversity. Race is not the challenge these days. It’s class. That’s why we bring in kids from the suburbs.
Q. Why England?
A. England was chosen for its rich musical history, and because we have connections there. A number of the kids will live with people. There will be performances and community service — painting, cleaning. We’ll perform and engage with the kids in distressed neighborhoods. In Mexico, we went to an orphanage and sang and played some games. The same with Jordan. We partnered with an after-school program there.
Sam Allis can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.