Acclaimed youth serve as Fort Wayne’s cultural ambassadors to world
Special to Frost Illustrated
Courtesy of Unity Performing Arts Foundation
NEW YORK—Fort Wayne’s Voices of Unity traveled to New York City recently to partake in a number of exciting events that culminated in an impressive performance at the world renowned Carnegie Hall. The students, most of whom had never been to New York City, were able to expand their horizons and also experience a Broadway show, perform at the well-known Harlem Children’s Zone, and see many cultural landmarks including the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island.
The Voices of Unity Youth Choir was invited by Choirs of America (COA) to participate in COA’s American Musical Performance that included other nationally recognized youth choirs—more than 600 individual singers. The main event allowed the choirs to collaborate and sing multiple songs in five different languages; selected choirs that had 40 or more singers were given the opportunity to spotlight a song from their repertoire. Dressed in their best and most formal attire the Voices of Unity Youth Choir made history at a once-in-a-lifetime performance at Carnegie Hall.
Choir members said they felt more than prepared as they rigorously rehearsed and practiced for months ahead of this performance. With family members, choir teams, and fans in the audience, the doors opened for the choir to enter the beautiful and majestic auditorium. They shared a set with the other sensational choirs that included songs in different languages. The climactic moment came when the choir performed Director Marshall White’s rendition of “What a Wonderful World.” The theatre soon filled with the beautiful voices of the Fort Wayne native choir and delivered the tune as is expected of World Champions. The New York City audience and members of the other choirs were impressed. Commenting on the performance, Grammy Award-nominated recording artist Grant Gershon simply said, “Wow!” and applause ensued.
“This was one of the most humbling experiences of my musical life,” shared Director White, “because I was on the stage that thousands of great men and women shared throughout the history of our country. I thank God for this unforgettable experience and opportunity for these young people who lives will be impacted forever.”
The choir members all had one word to describe the experience: amazing.
“This means a lot to the choir. We’re making history,” said one member. “We’re putting Fort Wayne and Voices of Unity on the map,” commented another choir member.
Before the climactic performance at Carnegie on June 21, the youth choir had the opportunity to perform for the world renowned social activist Dr. Geoffrey Canada, the president and chief executive officer of Harlem Children’s Zone (HCZ) and one of TIME’s 100 most influential people. The Harlem Children’s Zone was holding a celebration in his honor for the influence and success he has had in the Harlem community. The Indiana youth choir impressed the New York City crowd at HCZ by performing beautiful pieces including “America the Beautiful,” “What a Wonderful World,” and “In the Sanctuary.” They also sang a version of Michael Jackson’s “I’ll Be There,” and Whitney Houston’s “One Moment in Time.” The choir received a standing ovation from the crowd that included Dr. Canada and his family.
Following the performance at HCZ, the choir experienced Broadway for the first time with a chance to see The Lion King. To top off the night, they sang an impromptu performance in the lobby to an international audience, and to some of The Lion King cast members after the show. Many pulled out their smartphones and cameras to capture the unified voices of the youth choir. Later in the week, they visited Queens College where they partook in Choirs of America musical workshops from well-renowned composers and professors that included Dr. Andre Thomas, Dr. Bryce Pinkham, and Dr. Rollo Dilworth. The choir was also able to rehearse with the other participating youth choirs as they prepared for the big performance at Carnegie Hall the following day.
The New York trip, which included a Broadway show, college workshops, and a capstone performance at Carnegie Hall, all happened due to the generous support of Fort Wayne donors who donated to the Gold for the City campaign. The students, parents and staff are thankful for the emotional and financial support the Fort Wayne community has given. You can support and learn more about the Gold for the City campaign at UPAF.com.
“Thank you Fort Wayne for supporting these young people and our mission to raise up great young men and women. You would have been so proud of their performance,” White said, talking about what opportunities can do for our youth, “opportunities produce possibilities; possibilities inspire dreams; dreaming gives hope and hope gives young people a will to live and have an impact.”
Through discipline, dedication, and motivation the Voices of Unity Choir represented Fort Wayne, in a tremendous way and stole the hearts of those who experienced them for the first time. They will not stop at Carnegie Hall or New York City, but will represent Fort Wayne at the 2014 World Games in Riga, Latvia and bring home another gold medal.
“We’re making a difference; we’re telling Fort Wayne that we are more than a community choir,”said White.