The St. Louis Children’s Choirs [SLCC] have been lifting up the voices and spirits of St. Louis area children for 40 years.
What Diane Finley began in 1978 in a little white house in Ballwin has grown to be a nationally recognized choral organization.
As an elementary school music teacher, Finley envisioned an organization where children could learn advanced vocal training and sing great choral music, both locally and nationally. She began the choir with 14 young singers.
Within four short years, the choir had grown to five choirs with singers from 27 different schools, a nonprofit status and membership in the Arts and Education Council. In subsequent years, the Children’s Choirs became the official children’s choirs of the St. Louis Symphony and have sung over 100 performances with the orchestra in Powell Hall.
Present enrollment includes 460 talented singers, ages 6 to 18 and from 200-plus schools in Missouri and Illinois.
One of the finest of children’s choruses in the nation, SLCC’s outstanding faculty trains talented children in a variety of musical styles, including classical, sacred, jazz and contemporary music. Classes are taught in six ensemble levels that match the children’s musical abilities. All SLCC ensembles perform at Powell Symphony Hall each December. Advanced choirs tour both nationally and internationally.
In October 1982, Finley moved to Boston and Ethelyn Sparfeld became artistic director until 1998 when current director Barbara Berner began shepherding the choirs to fulfill their mission of “shaping young lives through musical excellence.”
“Over the past 40 years, thousands of young artists have learned musicianship, choral singing and artistry while building camaraderie, confidence, self-discipline, respect for others, teamwork, tolerance and a love of learning,” Berner said.
Third-year soprano Holly Connor, 13, epitomizes all that SLCC is about.
Both blind and autistic, she “is an inspiration,” according to her mother, Katie Sears. “She is musically gifted and doesn’t let her disability keep her from center stage.”
Sears, who now resides in Clayton but formerly resided in Chesterfield, explained that before joining SLCC, Holly had never been in a professional choir.
“It took a lot of work and focus on her behalf,” Sears said. “She always has a buddy assisting her during rehearsals and performances. The structure of the choirs and help from Holly’s peers allows her to be successful in most everything she does.
She brings awareness of being sight impaired through theater acting. This September, she’ll star as Cinderella’s mother in “Into the Woods” with the Debut Theatre Company of Chesterfield.
For her part, Holly said, “I enjoy making new friends and being able to sing along with them in front of a lot of people. I love performing.”
On May 19, SLCC will host a 40th Anniversary Celebration Concert at Powell Hall. Tickets are available online at powellhall.com or by calling (314) 534-1700.
Alumna, parent and board member Amy Kramer, of Town & Country, is one of the many alumni looking forward to the concert and seeing old friends.
“Being in The St. Louis Children’s Choirs was life changing for me,” Amy said. “I sang with them for seven years and had so many wonderful experiences touring Europe, singing at Powell Hall, Carnegie Hall and traveling around the United States. Through our music, we have brought joy to others and made long lasting friendships. My husband, Josh, and I are thrilled that our daughters have now joined the Choirs as well.”
“Choir is really fun and I’ve made a lot of friends,” said Jane Kramer, 11, echoing her mother. “This year, I’m wearing a robe. It has been very cool. I love the musical games we play, for example Syllable Symphony.”
Addie Kramer, age 9, said, “I like the music our director, Mrs. Broyles, chooses. For me, it’s fun because we play games like Pizza, Pizza. Someday I’ll get to wear a red robe in Chorale.”
Amy added that its not just the kids who are excited about signing at Powell Hall on May 19.
“The alumni are very excited to gather together again, sing in the Alumni Chorus, and relive the joys of our years with the Choirs,” she said.