Children's Choir turns 10

By Trina Trice

This year the Children's Choir is turning the big 1-0.

For a decade Director Dr. Martha Shaw has selected some of the best young voices in the Southern Crescent and given them the opportunity to sing.

The Spivey Hall Children's Choir has 100 members and is made up of children from all over metro Atlanta. The choir is just one of three that emerged over the years. The other groups are the Young Artists, which has close to 40 members, and the other is the Tour Choir, which has 50.

Members of the Tour Choir travel to different parts of the country to perform. The group has toured England and have performed for the 2001 American Choral Directors Association National Convention in San Antonio, Texas, one of only two children's choirs in the nation chosen for that honor.

Children with varying abilities are first placed into the Young Artists Choir. Others that show a strong inclination toward understanding music perform in the Children's Choir.

Shaw started with one choir in 1994, fulfilling a request from the Spivey Hall Education committee.

Shaw noticed, back then, that their were no children's singing organizations south of Atlanta that could rival such well-established groups as the Atlanta Boy's Choir or the Young Singers of Callanwolde, she said.

From her own experience directing choral groups, Shaw knew what she wanted, thus the Spivey Hall Children's Choir was born.

She explains why the choir has been so successful for so long:

"We've been blessed with a combination of factors," she said. "First, we have been blessed by marvelous children and great families who want the best for their children. And children that will not stop until they give the best they can do. Second, we have parents that support what we do, parents that want excellence so much they know the sacrifice it takes.

"Third, I've been blessed with the finest staff. They are my best friends. They share the relentless commitment to the education of children, to the development of the whole child and to the beauty in everything we undertake. And finally, we have been blessed by this hall, by its incomparable staff and their commitment to these children as well as the Spivey Hall education committee which offers its guidance and encouragement on so many levels and Clayton State for making this all possible."

Parent Sharon Bonner has worked with the choir since its inception.

"Every year is a new family," she said. "It's hard to compare one year to the next, they all have their own personality. The ones that are returning have grown over the summer, so it's a new beginning again."

As for the choir's future, Shaw would like the group to continue to tour locally, nationally, and internationally.

"I would love to take them to Austria for obvious reasons and love to take them to Venice to sing in St. Mark's Cathedral. But once you sing at Spivey Hall, finding another place that is (as good) is formidable."

More fundraising could be the key to giving the choir more opportunity to travel, Shaw said.

"We need to raise funds while maintaining respect for our place in the Clayton State (community)," she said. "We'll have to look for new resources that haven't been tapped."

Jena Guida, 12, has been in the choir for a year. Relatively new, Guida joined because she was urged by her friends.

"I like to sing, all my friends were starting to say, ?You like to sing, you should join,'" she said. "And plus you learn a lot of (music) theory.

"You'll sometimes find somebody that will say, ?I was in the Children's Choir nine years ago,'" Guida said. "That's weird ?cause that was a long time ago."