Youthful voices are preparing to sing joyfully in harmony as part of the Young Singers of the Palm Beaches’ annual spring concert. This year’s concert, “The Melody Within,” will be on Saturday, May 12 from 7 to 10 p.m. at the Kravis Center for the Performing Arts.
The singers are a multicultural mix of children from all over the county, who are given the life-changing opportunity to show the community their vocal talents.
The Young Singers of the Palm Beaches has been enriching the lives of young people for the past nine years. “It was started by several educators in the county because of the concern about budget cuts in school music programs,” Executive Director Beth Clark said.
Connie Drosakis, Shawn Berry and Michael Yannette, who are still with the organization today, are the three musical educators who founded the group in order to enhance the lives of talented, young vocalists.
The organization has grown significantly because of its all-inclusive approach, Clark said. “We wanted to have a community choir program that would have children from all races, religions and economic backgrounds, something completely open to everyone in our community, and teach the highest level of musicianship,” she said.
The Young Singers of the Palm Beaches started out small, with 79 students from grades three through 12. “I even remember the first audition we had; only 23 people showed up,” Clark said.
Auditions are now conducted at the Kravis Center in downtown West Palm Beach, which was a monumental move for the organization because it immediately increased the number of people showing up for auditions. “We have grown now over the years to include six choirs and nine employees, and we have toured nationally and internationally,” Clark said.
Young Singers of the Palm Beaches presently has 300 singers, who come from 90 different public, private and home school-educated groups throughout Palm Beach County. “We are close to maxed out at 300, but we have a waiting list,” Clark said. “And we have some people graduating at the end of the year, so there will be some openings.”
As one of the largest publicly financed arts organizations in the county, Young Singers of the Palm Beaches has become an integral part of the community. “It is seen as a real cultural gem here in Palm Beach County,” Clark said.
It is an extremely competitive process to get into the choir. With intense narrowing down, a select few students are chosen to participate in the choir each year. The singers receive an array of training in vocal techniques such as breathing, posture, diction, vowel articulation, sight singing and musical reading.
They also learn about the history of music. Most important, though, the children develop lifelong skills that they will carry into their everyday lives. Some of these skills include confidence, problem-solving, team-building and all-around social and mental growth.
“A lot of our kids are in vocal performance at school, but they are not in just that; they are in many other areas like political science and education,” Clark said. “They are in things that will make a difference in the world, and we feel as if we helped shape them.”
Board Member Brian Hanley, the parent of a Young Singers student, has personally seen the impact the organization has had on his family. “It really is one big family,” he said. “We all feel close together, and the kids always hang out together and remain good friends.”
The group brings together like-minded children from all walks of life. “Everybody in the program has the same goals, and it’s a group of 300 good kids,” he said.
Hanley enjoys helping the students any way he can. “These children are going to be tomorrow’s leaders, mothers and fathers, and we want to plant a seed in them,” he said.
Over the years, singers who have graduated have gone on to some of the best schools in the country.
“We have kids now who are in colleges throughout the United States,” Clark said. “They are in Juilliard, Fordham, Rollins, the University of Michigan, Florida State University, and they are doing very, very well.”
Young Singers of the Palm Beaches has performances throughout the year, ranging from local volunteer-related events to major concerts at the Kravis Center. “The Melody Within” will feature several choirs. These choir groups include Da Capo and Treble Choir for beginners from grades three to six; Intermezzo for grades six and seven; Bel Canto and Treble Voices for grades seven to 12; Cantate for young ladies in grades seven to 12; the Men’s Chorus for grades seven to 12; Ensemble, open to singers in grades seven to 12 by audition only; and the Concert Choir, which is a combination of Cantate, Men’s Chorus and Ensemble.
“First, we will be starting with our mass number of all 300 children singing ‘The Melody Within’ as our choral piece in standard uniform,” Clark said. “After that, each choir group will perform two or three songs, and all of the choirs at the end will be doing a ‘Salute to the Armed Forces’ medley.”
Each performance will be different and energetic, with a combination of musical theater-style performances and stand-up choral arrangements. “We add a lot of entertainment to it with costumes and props,” Clark said. “Many of the parents have even helped put the props together.”
Hanley is hoping that spectators will be as blown away, as he was the first time he saw the Young Singers perform. “It’s more than a concert,” he said.