August 11, 2023
"What can YOU do to help our singers grow?"
I asked our MasterSinger Interns this question a few weeks ago. Every year, a select few of our oldest singers volunteer at our Summer Sing camp. I train them during the week before camp to prepare them as leaders and facilitators.
It's one of my favorite days of the year: we invite these singers to think like teachers, to understand how to create a good learning environment, and to contemplate how they can direct singers' energy in a positive, productive direction. Our board vice chair, Jeanette Fotis, even taught them how to facilitate improvisational group games, so that they could lead those activities at camp.
I prompted them further:
How did you feel when you first joined BYC?
Why have you stayed all these years?
How do you want our campers to feel at camp?
What can YOU do to help them grow?"
Dear reader, what do you think they said?
As you might imagine, these dedicated, talented, musical BYC-ers didn't mention the music at all. They didn't focus on the importance of rhythmic precision or stage etiquette. While they have expressed their fervent devotion to those principles in the past, their answers revealed other priorities.
They wanted our campers to feel safe. They wanted them to have fun, to feel comfortable to meet new faces, and to feel seen and heard. They wanted to comfort campers who felt lonely and kindly encourage focus from singers who were distracted.
They wanted them to love singing together—and to know that they mattered.
These answers are simple. But they exemplify the importance of this community. Singing is the perfect vehicle to welcome the outsider, provide a sense of belonging, and create memories that last.
Our MasterSingers embody what BYC means. They get to reap the harvest of what we sow. And now, they get to set the tone for our younger singers' growth.
At Summer Sing, those MasterSingers jumped right in. They did all they could to make our camp an inviting, safe, welcoming space. Each of them welcomed new singers with a smile, reached out to shy campers, prepared materials and spaces for the next activity, and facilitated activities with kindness and grace.
We always end our camp with one of my favorite traditions: the Gratitude Web. Each camper in the circle takes turns expressing gratitude to another singer, passing a ball of yarn with each compliment. The yarn eventually unwinds into a web, a chain of kindness—and the campers tie a piece of the yarn to their wrists, to take that kindness with them after camp.
The words of gratitude were especially earnest this year. These young campers expressed sincere thanks to each other—for how they were greeted, for the fun they had together, and for the sense of belonging that they gave each other.
I have no doubt that our MasterSinger Interns, alongside our talented and dedicated staff and volunteers, created the space for those warm feelings.
As our 32nd year kicks off, we are offering more opportunities for our singers. This year features new performance opportunities, a trip to Philadelphia, visits from award-winning guest artists, and more. No two years are the same, as we continuously try to offer more for our singers.
With all of these developments, BYC can rest assured that our core values remain strong as ever. If we have these thoughtful singers and our greater community that supports them, we have everything we need.