January 2018

by DeeGee Lester, Director of Education, The Parthenon

The MET Singers perform during Upon These Shoulders; Photograph by Briana Cooper

For the past 20 years, Choral Arts Link (CAL, Inc.) has encouraged and mentored children as they step outside their individual comfort zones to grow artistically and to experience the collective magic of the choral ensemble.

A nonprofit (501c3) founded by Margaret Campbelle-Holman, Choral Arts Link expands traditional arts education, fostering a child’s love of music as a positive power for change. Students grades 2–12 from all ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds receive access to equitable, quality choral training. “One of our goals is to have a group that looks like Nashville, reflecting its diversity,” says Campbelle-Holman. The universality of music connects and weaves all who are a part of CAL (teachers, students, volunteers, and parents) into a tapestry of love, support, and musicality—one more beautiful reflection of Music City Campbelle-Holman points out that choral development is different from, while building upon, the private lesson experience. “Whereas with individual training they have only to tune to themselves, in a group ensemble they must listen not only to themselves, but also be constantly listening to those around them,” she explains. “It’s a sound community—an invisible bond of what it means to all work collaboratively and to sing as one.”

CAL’s signature program, The MET Singers, currently has over 80 participating youth who meet each week to develop artistically and professionally. Originally called The Metropolitan Nashville Public School Singers, the name change reflects the inspired creativity of the students themselves who believed The MET garners images of New York’s Metropolitan Opera while building on the Metropolitan history of Nashville/Davidson County.

“The children changed it,” she says, pointing to yet another staple in the success of CAL in the concept of 360 Mentoring—the full circle of teachers, students, and volunteers learning from each other.

The MET Singers in the Nashville Symphony’s “Let Freedom Sing” concert; Photograph by Briana Cooper

As seasoned students advance to “section leaders” for their respective voice parts within the ensemble, they mentor fellow singers and assist with rehearsals and acclimating new members to MET ensemble methods for working toward a common goal. In addition to professional opportunities including MET Honor Choir performances with the Nashville Symphony, young singers gain 21st-century skills, including discipline, leadership, and diligence in working collaboratively, which will benefit them throughout life.

Students have opportunities (September and January) to register with MET Singers. In addition, CAL offers a summer camp experience (MET Choral Camp) and MET Academy, the educational arm for intersecting with arts learning initiatives.

Beyond familiar songs associated with choral performance, young singers explore in-depth musical concepts— for example, how through dissonance and discord, tension and release, kids can experience harmony. They also gain a working appreciation for various music genres—everything from opera and gospel to the harmonizing of barbershop and the diversity of world music traditions. Choral Arts Link continuously expands musical partnership, adding organizations such as the Barbershop Harmony Society, Conexion Americas, and Plaza Mariachi.

Whether planning a career in music or developing a lifelong deeper appreciation for music, these talented young singers have the opportunity to share the universal language and to fully experience the joy of collective magic.

For more information, visit www.choralartslink.org.

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