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0000017c-60f7-de77-ad7e-f3f739cf0000Arts & More airs Fridays at 7:50 a.m. and 4:20 p.m.Theme music: "Like A Beginner Again" by Dan Barry of Seas of Jupiter

New Eastside children's choir brings music to an underserved neighborhood

The Eastside choir performing at St. Mary's Catholic Church during the Kalamazoo Children's Chorus Christmas concert.
Rebecca Thiele, WMUK

The Kalamazoo Children’s Chorus will be performing at Chenery Auditorium Saturday at 3 p.m. Some of the money from the concert will go to support the Eastside choir.

Last Sunday, St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Kalamazoo was packed. Parents, friends, and neighbors squeezed in to see the new Eastside Children’s Choir perform their first concert.

Credit Rebecca Thiele, WMUK

“I think it went really good, cause my family was just like saying, ‘Can I get a picture? Can I get a picture? Please, please, please!’ Like I was a superstar!” says Zyen Buchanan.

Zyen one of the nine girls who performed in the concert. The Kalamazoo Children’s Chorus has five other children’s choirs arranged by age group. They perform in popular venues like Kalamazoo Community College and Chenery Auditorium. 

But this choir will be different. It’s made up of kids from the Eastside neighborhood who perform for the Eastside neighborhood. Fred Sang is the artistic director of the Kalamazoo Children’s Chorus. He says he wants to have more choirs like this. 

“How we can make music available to kids and neighborhoods who don’t have the ability to get across town, or finances are an issue, or just generally be able to make that happen?" says Sang. "So we decided we were going to put it here in the Eastside because we found out that that’s pretty much the most underserved part of the city."

And by ‘underserved,’ Sang means there aren’t a lot of arts events going on in the Eastside. Pat Taylor of the Eastside Neighborhood Association says having a neighborhood choir will certainly help to change that. But it will also help kids to get to know children from different backgrounds who live right around the corner—like KatryceBrown’s daughters Kailynand Katiera.

“They don’t really know a lot of kids from the neighborhood. They go to school outside of our neighborhood, they go like over on the west side,” says Brown. “So they don’t get too much interaction with people over here. So this was a good experience for them.”

Jackie Buchanan is Zyen’s mom. She says the choir is free, so nothing stands between Zyen and her dreams of being a star.

“Financially I’m not able to send her somewhere to have singing lessons,” says Buchanan. “This way she’s learning to sing solo and also she [Julie Davis] teaches them how to use your voice. She’s teaching them different scales. She is—Miss Davis and Miss Hughey—are very awesome.”

Julie Davis is the director for the Eastside choir. Patricia Hughey is the choir’s piano accompanist.

“If you have a child that does want to expand and get into things—cause she [Zyen] does do tap and things like that," Buchanan continues. "But nowadays when you do decide to do things like that, you do need to be a triple threat. So this is awesome because I’m not really a singer. So for her to get that—and she’s not shy—it’s good for her confidence, her self-esteem. And I think in the end, I mean, you never know what she may get out of this.”

Director Julie Davis says, years from now, she hopes the choir will as busy and as big as the other KCC choirs. The choir only has ten girls right now—one was home sick during the concert. But Davis would like to have 25  to 30 kids in the group.

“We’re lucky that the nine girls we have can match pitch and have good rhythm. We lucked out with that,” says Davis. “But we’d love to expand to have more and really make this be a point of pride in the Eastside neighborhood.”

Davis and the kids only had two months to rehearse before the Christmas concert, but the choir still got a standing ovation.

Rebecca Thiele was an environmental reporter and producer of Arts & More for WMUK. She worked at the station from 2011 to 2019.
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