Hi-priority n’hood kids choir celebrates Toronto’s 180th

Cathy Elliot —

On Toronto’s 180th birthday, three hundred children and youth from Rexdale combined to create a performance that thrilled a community. A packed North Albion Collegiate Institute auditorium witnessed the premiere of a new joint initiative between DAREarts and the Rexdale Outreach Choir (ROC) in partnership with the TDSB and Toronto Cultural Services called DARE2sing.

Dare-Arts Toronto Cultural Services Director Nadira Pattison congratulated the children on their success. “You are Toronto’s future leaders and artists,” and expressed her pleasure in seeing so much support from families and the community. TDSB Superintendent Annie Appleby was on hand to encourage the kids to excel. “I felt riveted by the energy. It is so heart-warming to see students’ leadership and pride in their abilities.”

The DAREarts Children’s Choir was first formed in response to community needs. In 2001, the choir performed at the Nobel Peace Prize’s 100th Anniversary Concert in Norway with Sir Paul McCartney.

This year, it has a new direction which focuses on songs chosen and generated by the DAREarts youths themselves. One of the songs was written by Juno nominee Glenn Marais and Webequie First Nation Youth (“Spirit of the North”) Master musicians Sarah Hicks (vocal), Sam Chung (vocal) and Christina Fey (accompanist) along with youth mentors from ROC (Rexdale Outreach Choir) have been meeting weekly with students from three Rexdale area schools: Gulfstream, North Kipling and Beaumond Heights.Dare-arts-2

Sarah Hicks: “Working with these incredible young singers has been an unbelievable experience of discovery, growth, and exuberance. These choristers have a voice and their message is one of hope, perseverance, unity and celebration. They are the artists, leaders, mentors of the future and they are unstoppable!”

Over the course of rehearsals, DAREarts founder Marilyn Field divided her time between the three schools, encouraging, listening and engaging with them. “Watching the kids in choir singing together reminds me how critical music is to our very being. Yes, these kids are learning how to support their team by being their best, just like in any sport. But it goes far beyond that. With their music, these kids are also sharing together those innermost places inside themselves, where music-making goes. They laugh and cry together and then feel empowered to handle their life challenges with strength.”

DAREarts is a Canadian not-for-profit organization, which stands for “Discipline, Action, Respect, Responsibility and Excellence in Education”. DAREarts’ 5-year program works with 9-14 year olds from schools in high-priority neighbourhoods, empowering them to become leaders. Visit www.darearts.com for more information about DAREarts. Visit http://www.darearts.wordpress.com for up-to-date sharing of their experiences.

DAREarts thanks its lead supporters: Northbridge Insurance, Ontario Arts Council and Ontario Trillium Foundation.