Numerous studies show that (a) all children possess a degree of musical ability and (b) engaging in music at an early age promotes more artistic, academic, and social achievement. As such, music is considered an integral part of every child’s early development. Building on this basis, one of our founding principles is to reach every child who has the desire to sing, using rich programming that supports and nurtures their musical potential and, moreover, encourages their growth as creative individuals and their future as engaged citizens.
We recognize, though, that many families do not have the ability to reach us through our traditional programs and locations, nor do they have regular access to music; thus, we bring our choral music education to them! Neighborhood Choirs (NC), our tuition-free community outreach program, provides the opportunity for San Antonio, South San Antonio, Edgewood, and Harlandale ISD elementary and middle school students to participate in free after-school choir classes, right in their own neighborhoods. They experience inspiring musical moments using the same repertoire and instructors as our core ensembles.
For each section of the Neighborhood Choirs, we collaborate with a local educational institution or school district to provide children the opportunity to sing in their own neighborhoods. We established NC Harlandale in 2008, which partners with Harlandale ISD for two semesters of music at Harlandale Middle School. NC OLLU, established in 2001, provides singers a 5-7 week course at Our Lady of the Lake University.
Part of our efforts to reach these communities stems from the numerous studies analyzing the benefits of music participation. A recent study stated that music participation impacts many variables of academic success: fewer discipline reports and higher grade point average, graduation rates, attendance rates, and standardized test scores. Students themselves reported in this study that participating in music class made them feel “happier, relaxed, and more accomplished,” and that music classes gave them “a sense of belonging and a place where they could feel confident and at peace” (Prelude: Music Makes Us). Additionally, music-making has been shown to relieve stress, curb anxiety, reduce depression, and enhance self-esteem.
All students in our Neighborhood Choirs perform twice a year to showcase their improved musical skills and radiate their newfound joy of singing. Since we are now a resident affiliate of the Tobin Center, all children in our NC programs will perform in the brand-new H-E-B Hall of the Tobin Center for the Performing Arts as part of our concert series, beginning in December 2014. Standing alongside their peers from our core ensembles, these students will perform on the main stage in a life-changing experience, actively participating in a quality performance at a world-class venue.