Boston Children’s Chorus wins National Arts honor

Paige Pihl Buckley, Special to the Reporter
Nov. 27, 2013

The Boston Children’s Chorus (BCC) was awarded the 2013 National Arts and Humanities Youth Program Award by First Lady Michelle Obama at a ceremony in Washington, D.C over the weekend. The BCC was selected from more than 350 applicants and 50 finalists for the award, which recognizes exemplary after-school programs and includes a $10,000 grant and a year of capacity building support.

“It was an unbelievable experience for us,” said David Howse, executive director of the Boston Children’s Chorus. “We’re quite proud to represent Boston and its communities.”

Amber Rodriguez, 17, of Chelsea attended the ceremony, along with Howse, to represent the BCC. Sixteen chorus members performed at a separate but related event in Washington, D.C.

“The reality is that we could have taken any of our students because they are all quite poised and elegant,” said Howse. Rodriguez was selected because of her long-term participation in the program. She began as part of the chorus’s entry-level training program and has now advanced to its highest level.

“She is a wonderful representative of all the students we have,” said Howse.

The Boston Children’s Chorus was founded ten years ago and uses a shared love of music to unite Boston’s diverse communities, said Ileana Tauscher, an intern at the BCC.

“We have a dual-sided mission,” said Tauscher, “with a high degree of artistic integrity and a social justice aspect as well. Participants go through intensive choral training and are introduced to a social justice curriculum.”

The curriculum is integrated into BCC rehearsal time, and often involves discussions of current events or issues of participants’ choosing. And while the BCC’s almost 500 singers perform throughout the state and nationwide, it is this focus on social justice of which the BCC’s leadership is most proud.

“When people think of the Boston Children’s Chorus, they think of singing and beautiful music,” said Howse. “We also want people to understand that there is a social justice component and we’re proud to have that recognized by the President’s Committee.”

The Boston Children’s Chorus is open to young people, ages 7 to 18, from Boston and its surrounding communities. While all participants must audition, the organization strives to be inclusive, said Tauscher, and has an acceptance rate of 98 percent.