For over 100 years the Choir School of Delaware has trained people of all ages to sing, but for the kids who attend, the lessons learned will shape their lives for years to come.
The Choir School of Delaware is a multi-generational choir where kids age 7 through 17 are instructed in both choral and piano. But it’s not just music these kids are learning. Many of the students are at-risk kids from Wilmington. The school is a safe place they can come to after school and do their homework, get help with whatever is going on in their lives and of course learn music.
Choir School president Dr. Roseanne Foley said the kids are required to get started on their homework after grabbing something to eat when they arrive at the school. “We use music as kind of the foundation for discipline and learning responsibility.” Part of that responsibility is homework.
Tim Hurtt, a 17 year old who attends the school describes a typical day like this, “After you eat, you come in and do your homework, you can work with mentors that are here to help you.” Those mentors help the kids in other ways too, not just giving them an ear when they need someone to talk to, but also music mentoring as well.
“What we see in music in particular is it gives these children the confidence to carry themselves through in any aspect of their lives,” Foley said. One great example of that is Tim, he told me that when he first started at the school he was late all of the time, to practice as well as concerts. But now he would rather be ‘an hour early rather than an hour late.'”
In fact, Hurtt plans on carrying his musical education on into college. “I plan on going to school for vocal music and double majoring in education, so that I can be a high school music teacher,” he said.
Friendships are another aspect of the school that further helps these children. Grace Urban who is 11 years old has made some lasting friendships. “I’ve made a couple of really good friends here and I love music. I love all of the staff and adult singers and kid singers too are really, really nice,” she said.
For Indira Jaikaran, who is 12 years old, this is her first year at the school. She calls it “an amazing experience.” She especially likes traveling around Delaware to sing. “You get to go all over Delaware and sing for different people and it’s actually a great thing to do,” Jaikaran said.
She has loved to sing since she was little, and attributes her talent to her mother’s side of the family, “I come from a long line of singers from my mom’s side, my dad’s side can’t really sing.”
The night we came to the Choir School, everyone was rehearsing for their upcoming Christmas concerts, from local tree lighting ceremonies to their big ‘Messiah’ concert being held on December 16th. Everyone sounded great, you can see samples of their hard work in the video above.
For Rosanne Foley, who came to the school to help the kids with their science homework, her favorite thing is “working one on one with these kids. You will just fall in love with them, they are so enthusiastic and they want to learn.”
Tim Hurtt credits the school with getting him to where he is today. “I think that if it were not for the choir school, I would not be the person that I am today,”Hurtt said.
Everyone we spoke with wants to be at the school, they love music and they love being together.
“The friendship, the music, you learn a lot. I think everything’s great about it,” 11 year old Grace Urban said.
I asked all three kids to make a pitch for the school to parents at home watching our story. All three gave similar answers, citing friendships and the musical education as big reasons.
Perhaps Indira said it best, “Your kids will open up and come out of their shy shell and they will also meet great people like myself and great adults that will guide them through their musical journey, because you know, it’s so much fun to learn to sing and become friends and be really close with them.”
Tim even went so far as to equate the people at the school with family. “I look up to Mr. Harley, the director of the choir, he is like family to me. I consider almost everybody here family.”
Everyone at the school works really hard, Foley said of the kids. “They want to do better and they want to make sure that their performances are on point.”
You can see from the above video or their upcoming concert that they succeeded.
The Choir School will be celebrating 130 years in 2018 and if you can’t make it out to the ‘Messiah’ concert on Saturday night, check their website for more events held throughout the year all across Delaware.