Madison Youth Choirs
By Megan Larsen, UW-Stevens Point arts management student and Arts Wisconsin intern
For Madison Youth Choirs (MYC) in Madison, WI, teaching children the fundamentals of vocal music performance encompasses so much more than simply providing singing lessons. MYC, an innovator in youth choral music education, invites singers of all ability levels to challenge themselves to learn more than just notes and rhythms. The young singers in MYC explore the history, context, and heart of music, becoming “expert noticers” by using music as a lens to discover the world.
As the oldest youth choir organization in Wisconsin, MYC serves people ages 7 to 18 in 11 single-gender choirs. Among other organization objectives, MYC aims to ensure that the youth in the greater Madison community have access to high-quality arts programming. Through working with nearly 500 children in their core choral programs, 200 youth in Madison area schools during the day, hundreds of kids at their Boychoir Festival and reaching more than 25,000 people annually through season performances and outreach opportunities, MYC fosters a strong culture of valuing thoughtful music education experiences. They place a great focus on what kids are learning and how they’re learning it.
MYC Artistic and Executive Director Michael Ross strives to maintain a welcoming environment at MYC so that all kids are welcome. “Many years ago, we stopped auditioning kids that were 10 years old and younger. Instead, singers that want to access our programs simply sign up for one of our introductory choir classes,” Michael said. Sometimes, introductory choir class fulfils the desire the child has for music or singing. Other times, these introductory classes create lifelong singers and longtime performers in MYC.
“Madison Youth Choirs wants to be a place for singers with diverse experiences and backgrounds. We don’t believe in a fixed mindset model when it comes to accepting youth in our programs. Instead, we imagine more for our kids and encourage a growth mindset that equates learning and work with success.” They present diverse routine concerts which showcase all 11 of their single-gender choirs.
In addition to MYC’s public concert series, the organization conducts an annual spring tour of schools and retirement centers where they perform for more than 7,000 students and senior citizens annually. MYC also collaborates with local professional arts organizations including the Madison Symphony Orchestra, Madison Ballet and Madison Opera, while continually supporting and recognizing the work of public schools and music educators throughout the area.
A much-anticipated event of MYC is the Boychoir Festival hosted each winter. 2015 marked the 5th annual Boychoir Festival, which was started in 2010 “as a way to publicly value boys’ singing in a culture where boys’ involvement in vocal music isn’t always widely encouraged at a young age.” Michael Ross says the Boychoir Festival aims to provide accessibility to all male singers to truly reflect the diversity of the greater Madison community. This year’s concert was “both inspiring and exciting” and attracted nearly 400 boys as performers.
Coming up this spring, MYC is presenting their spring concert series entitled “Momentum” at the Capitol Theater at the Overture Center for the Arts in Madison. To learn more about upcoming performances and educational programs, please visit www.madisonyouthchoirs.org.