Many studies report the positive effects that music has on individuals. Whether playing an instrument in a band, singing in the shower, or tapping your toes in the audience, there is something to be said for the positive benefits to those who engage in musical activities.
Todd Green has a passion for promoting the benefits of music. As a professor at Brock University he has been instrumental in determining the role of corporate responsibility and ethics in the arts and entertainment industries.
One year ago, Todd Green spearheaded Choir Nation, a non-profit organization that gathers people together in song. The program offers a drop in program for individuals as well as corporate and group events. Participants gather together to learn songs and perform them for an audience: usually on the same day.
For corporate and business groups, this unique team building activity has led to more camaraderie in the workplace and increased confidence in the participants. Singers boast of the intrinsic benefits of taking a well deserved song break in the middle of the work day or conference.
It has been Green and his business partner, Mendelt D. Hoekstra’s, goal since starting up Choir Nation to implement a children’s choir. “The program is called Tomorrow’s Voices.Our slogan is ‘kids should be heard’,” says Green. “It was a play on the saying ‘Kids should be seen and not heard.’ We want the kids to have a voice and get to sing with each other.”
Green developed the concept for the children’s choir in hopes of providing access to culture and music for the youth in the Niagara Region. He is ecstatic about the opportunity Tomorrow’s Voices can bring to our young people. “I see the benefits of music on our adult clients and I wanted the same for children,” explains Green.
“Tomorrow’s Voices is a choir for children who might not otherwise have a chance to sing,” says Green. “There are many programs out there that provide athletic funding, but not something for music,” says Green.
“There is music in schools, but we felt an opportunity to have kids from different backgrounds come together.”
The group meets every Wednesday at the Marilyn I. Walker School of Fine and Performing Arts. Participants are bused to the program and a nutrition break is provided by Community Care.
With only 4 weeks of the program under his belt and already 43 participants between the ages of 7 and 17, the program is an overnight success.
Green enjoys the energy in the room as heads bob up and down and toes tap to the music. “It is a release and a stress break for the singers,” says Green. “We don’t get too uptight if they make mistakes and get the notes wrong. It is not high pressure, it is the opposite of that.”
Green is pleased with the cohesiveness he has witnessed forming within the group despite the short time frame they have spent together. “Bonds are starting to form in the group. It’s great to see them becoming buddies and talking about music and singing,” says Green. “Their eyes are closed and they are in the music.They are having fun and relieving stress.”
Choir Director for the program, Sarah Jerrom, is continuously inspired by the participants. “These kids are really fun to work with,” says Jerrom. “They can be so expressive, especially when they can relate to the lyrics or simply when they’re being moved by the music. It’s absolutely amazing to witness and I feel very lucky to have the front row seat for those moments.”
Jerrom carefully selects the songs for each week. “I try to pick songs that are relatively current, catchy and have a positive message,” she explains. “Since we started up, we’ve been working on songs by Adele, Vance Joy, The Lumineers, and Justin Timberlake.”
“I also look for songs with a wide vocal range and that have built-in harmonies or backgrounds,” says Jerrom. “I’m enjoying the challenge of finding pieces. My favorite part about working with them is watching their faces while they’re singing.”
“This is a unique opportunity for kids in the region to come together,” states Green. “I hope people can get an understanding that because of our supporters (such as TD Bank and the Brock Department of Dramatic Arts) there is no cost to the kids. They are getting so much enjoyment out of the program. St. Catharines has been our pilot site. The big picture vision is to have one of these choirs in each major city in Canada. Ideally, within 3-5 years we would love to expand and have 10-15 of these around the country.”
Canada’s Juno winners and nominees have stepped up to support Tomorrow’s Voices. “The group will be performing the song Stompa with Serena Ryder at the Burlington Performing Arts Centre,” says Green. “We also attended sound check of country singer Dallas Smith.” In front of an excited crowd, Juno nominee, Royal Wood, accompanied the choir at their launch event this past November at the First Ontario Performing Arts Centre.
Involvement in Tomorrow’s Voices doesn’t just benefit the participants. “After the session, my mood is always lifted,” says Green. “If I am tired on my way to the program, I come out inspired. They turn my day around.”