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All of Who They Are

By Sam Barge, Executive and Artistic Director

I try not to call the MasterSingers “kids.” At least, not in front of them. They are teenagers, after all, and they strive to understand the world from a place of maturity.

One singer brought bubbles to rehearsal this week. During our mid-rehearsal break, our singers went outside to the church courtyard to enjoy the sunny weather—and, yes, blow, pop, eat and whack bubbles. I saw the unbridled, youthful giggles and joy of kids.

Just minutes before, they had been singing a Renaissance frottola and a mixed-meter chorale, each piece requiring a rather mature level of musicianship.

Indeed, our singers are so many things. They are kids, and they are astute musicians. They are mentors for our younger singers, and they are bubble-poppers.

At BYC, we want all of our singers to feel free to be all of themselves.

This range of being was on full display during our recent trip to Philadelphia. The MasterSingers had a choral clinic that morning at Temple University before they went sightseeing in the city. A mark of a good trip: each singer had a different highlight. Whether it was the clinic, lunch at the college dining hall, the tour of the Philadelphia Orchestra’s Kimmel Center, a visit to Independence Hall, or the ice cream stop at the end, each singer had something they loved that day.

At the clinic that morning, our singers were serious and professional in demeanor. They absorbed everything that Dr. Paul Rardin asked of them, improving their tone quality, dynamic range, energy and articulation in each exercise. At each stop afterward, they displayed humility and respect for the space they were visiting.

But on our bus between stops? Energy abounded. Not a minute passed without singing and laughter. Whether it was a song from Hamilton or “Barbie Girl,” they kept the music flowing. They were bonding and soaking in these moments together.

However, one thing remained constant all day: how they treated each other. Not a single singer walked alone. Whether on the move or huddled together for warmth against the wind, the group was connected, compassionate and kind toward each other without fail.

As a chorus, this matters.

No two ensembles can sing a piece the same way because their voices are different. The people are different. What you bring to any creative endeavor affects the product as much as anything else. What, where and when you sing is important—but the ‘who’ is vital. And music can only be fully explored if the performers feel free to be themselves and know that their fellow singers support them.

We want our ‘kids’ to express who they are—all of who they are. They are expressive artists. They are passionate performers. They are diverse and come from different walks of life. They are curious students. They are strong friends. And they are still learning themselves and need space to explore who they are becoming.

When our singers feel comfortable bringing all of themselves into our space, they can think, feel, play, learn, grow and sing with all they’ve got.

And that is when they can truly accomplish anything.

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