Not many people have the nerve to sing in public. But imagine being a teenage boy whose voice is behaving badly as it finds its new range – and then standing up and singing out in front of an audience.
Daunting doesn’t even begin to describe it. Terrifying, more like.
Two years ago, the administration at Chor Leoni, Vancouver’s much-loved male-voice choir, decided there was a need to encourage younger males to try choral singing. The first MYVoice (Mobilizing Young Men’s Voices) program for males aged 12 to 20 was launched in spring of 2011 in Vancouver and New Westminster.
The 12-week program, which is free for the singers, involves weekly rehearsals, workshops and a day retreat, as well as three concerts. The budget for the 2012 season is $40,000 and the calendar includes two public performances with Chor Leoni.
No one was sure what the response would be when they launched the program.
“I was worried,” admits Kevin Zakresky, program director of MYVoice and Chor Leoni assistant conductor. “I knew that Chor Leoni had invested quite a lot – we had some grants and some quite sizable private donations – and so we really wanted the program to work.”
In fact, about 70 young males signed up across both choirs – including one 10-year-old. “His big brother had joined and he was desperate to take part, so we thought, what the heck,” laughs Mr. Zakresky.
The MYVoice choirs truly reflect the region’s diversity, Mr. Zakresky says. “We’ve got waspy North Shore guys next to aboriginal kids from the east side, next to East Indian kids from the west side. It’s just the whole Lower Mainland in one singing microcosm.”
It was such a success, next year’s program has been expanded to a third choir in Langley, and Mr. Zakreski hopes the model could eventually roll out across the country. “Next year we would like to expand to the Interior and/or on Vancouver Island,” he says. “And I’m hoping that it catches the eye of potential sponsors who could help it go national.”
The biggest take up this year was at the Vancouver location, Tupper Secondary School in East Van, where the music teacher, Mike Cavaletto, is also a Chor Leoni singer.