Choir members make their way to the West Duval Street building that serves as their practice facility.
From musical iconoclast Quincy Jones to contemporary powerhouse Florence Welch, musicians across genres originally found their voices singing in a choir as children. Ross Johnson grew up in a musical family. When he joined the Jacksonville Children’s Chorus (JCC) two years ago, at age 14, he had sung in church choirs much of his life. Yuki Frampton, 12, also came from a musical family when she joined JCC. Her mother is a professional pianist, and Yuki majored in vocal instruction at Pine Forest, a Duval County elementary magnet school of the arts. When 13-year old Alynna Moreland was accepted into the chorus at age 9, she had never received any formal musical training. But she did have a strong desire to sing, and to be in a choir, which is what Artist and Executive Director Darren Dailey looks for at auditions.
“We get kids from all over,” Development Director Holly Hammond says. “They’ve had musical training in a variety of ways, or none at all.” Arts education varies a great deal in the region, she says. “And one of the things JCC does is fill that gap.”
Rachel Mechling, 15 warms up with fellow Chorus members.
Hanna Frampton, 14 with fellow Choir members.
Darren Dailey, the Director of the Jacksonville Children’s Chorus directs Thursday evening’s practice session.
Marissa Dickerson, the Assistant Training and Lyric Choir Conductor leads members of the training chorus.
Darren Dailey works with student’s voices as if the voice is a tool to be used both in song and life.
Melissa Barnes, the Assistant Concert and Touring Choir Conductor leads members of the Touring Choir.
Founded in 1995 at Jacksonville University, JCC offers high quality choral music education to singers of diverse backgrounds from kindergarten through high school. Based at First United Methodist Church on Duval Street in downtown Jacksonville, rehearsals are also held at locations around the First Coast to make them as convenient as possible for children and teens living around the region.
The nonprofit’s mission is to instill a love for choral singing in youth, but it goes much deeper, Dailey says. The children receive education in music theory, sight-reading, breathing techniques and other vocal skills. They also learn anatomy of the vocal chords, and how to sing songs in many languages, in a wide variety of musical styles. But the program also builds character. “It is about making great people,” Dailey says. “Singing is a tool to make them great adults. Some people use football. We use a child’s voice.”
Jacksonville Children’s Chorus is composed of various choirs, where children are placed according to their ability. The choirs include: primary, for kindergarten through second grade; training, for second through sixth grades; lyric and treble, for sixth grade into high school; young men’s; concert and touring. Children advance as they grow musically. The program is tuition based, but scholarships are available.
Ross, Yuki and Alynna are now all members of JCC’s highest level ensemble, the Touring Choir, which performs in about 18 shows a year, including with famous guest artists on Jacksonville stages. They also tour internationally. This coming summer they will go to Greece, Croatia and Italy, and in the summer of 2018 are slated to sing at the Vatican, with the Pope in attendance.
Alynna is being raised by her grandmother, who is dedicated to getting her to rehearsals in the evenings and on weekends, although Alynna says it hasn’t always been easy. “But we felt it was mandatory,” she says. “Because I love it so much.”