Imagine a land where classical music makes teenage girls go gaga. Where Bach and Brahms rule. Where life transformation begins.
That land is New York City, those girls make up the Girls Choir of Harlem, and while they may be shaken up about Ricky's bon-bon or feverish over 98 Degrees, they've also been moved by music's special, spiritual dimension.
The girls choir was organized in 1979 by Dr. Walter J. Turnbull as a unit of the Boys Choir of Harlem, of which he is founder and director. The girls were first accepted into the Choir Academy in 1993 and are "slowly, slowly emerging" from the shadows of the 30-year-old boys group, says fourth-year director Lorna Myers, a former Metropolitan Opera mezzo-soprano who holds two degrees from the Juilliard School of Music and has performed vocally with the world's leading symphonies.
"The choir seeks to help young women to transform their lives through music, build self-esteem, and find positive role models," she says. "They develop a strong value system of discipline and hard work."
The group's 40-member concert ensemble -- culled from the 240 girls in grades 4-12 at the academy -- is touring for a second straight year, and they've already played such noted venues as Lincoln Center, Kennedy Center, and the Apollo. Concert selections range from Bach and Brahms to a West Indian dance; from folk songs to the music of Ireland, Israel, Vienna, France, Spain, and Serbia. Songs of inspiration and patriotism are featured, along with a comprehensive African American set and a jazz medley.
"Our program is so diverse, there's going to be something everyone can relate to," says Myers. "There's enough that's not classically oriented that would appeal to all tastes."
Exposure to a vast variety of cultures through music is an invaluable growth opportunity, and it's is something Myers hopes to impress upon young, mainstream music fans.
"Ricky Martin, the Backstreet Boys -- these are artists that one has great respect for. Music is its own language, so, you see, we're already on the same page as these artists. We just have another kind of music that everyone could also appreciate. If only people understood it -- and it's very easy to understand."
All music lessons should be this simple.
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