FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) – The Fort Wayne Children’s Choir is celebrating 50 years of bringing beautiful music to the community and impacting the arts culture in the city.

The Children’s Choir started in 1973 as the Children of Peace Choristers. It’s described as a “one-room schoolhouse” for students who wanted to add more music to their lives. It was first called the Fort Wayne Children’s Choir in 1984, and over the years has expanded in both the number of students it serves and programs it offers.

“It’s such a milestone and for an organization to have gone through so many years, so much history, and to still be here stronger than ever, just shows that the organization is important to this community and the community is keeping it going,” said Emily Bird, the associate artistic director of the choir.

The Fort Wayne Children’s Choir has eight ensembles that singers can take part in. There are currently about about 250 students involved in the choir who come from all over northeast Indiana and northwest Ohio. They range in age from 8 to 18, and many students younger than 8 are involved with the organization’s early childhood program.

You’ll find the Fort Wayne Children’s Choir performing at a number of venues and alongside several arts partners in the community like the Fort Wayne Philharmonic and the Fort Wayne Ballet. They also perform at TinCaps games, holiday concerts, community events, and more.

“These kids have an opportunity to do things they wouldn’t be able to do on their own. To see new places, sing beautiful music,” said Jonathan Busarow, the executive artistic director of the choir. “These opportunities open doors so maybe they go into music, but they’ll always have an appreciation for music and the arts.”

“The Fort Wayne Children’s Choir is so lucky to share our music and contribute to the musical fabric of Fort Wayne,” said Bird. “We’ve become part of the greater arts community in Fort Wayne.”

Both directors say their students not only learn how to read music, sing together, and experience new things, but they take away a lot of non-musical skills as well.

“It’s really helped me learn how to make new friends,” said 8th grader Lyra Miller. “It’s just made me a better person because it’s helped me learn how to make connections and change my life with music.”

“I think it really helped my confidence a lot,” said 12th grader Benjamin Sarrazine. “But it also helped me when I did show choir to sing solo apart from a group and branch out of my comfort zone.”

The Fort Wayne Children’s Choir also affords students the opportunity to travel, both domestically and internationally, to share their music. This summer, the choir is heading to Japan where they will visit Fort Wayne’s sister city of Takaoka. There, they’ll perform a special piece composed and commissioned for the trip called Gentle Rivers.

The piece was composed by Diane Whitacre of Huntington, Indiana and was commissioned by the Fort Wayne Alumnae Chapter of Sigma Alpha Iota for their 50th Anniversary. The piece was premiered by the Fort Wayne Children’s Choir Youth Chorale on May 7, 2022 and was written to be sung as part of the choir’s trip to Japan to celebrate the choir’s 50th Anniversary. 

According to Whitacre, “the text  of the song reflects the friendship between Fort Wayne and their sister city, Takaoka, Japan, as well as the rivers of both cities.”

Whitacre goes on to say that the Fort Wayne Alumnae Chapter of Sigma Alpha Iota felt it was important for the students to meet her and feel involved in the creation process, so she’s attended several rehearsals to hear the music and offer feedback. The students have been able to learn the background on how the words and music were written and shre their reactions to it as well.

The Fort Wayne Children’s Choir held its annual end-of-the-season Spring Concert May 7 in front of a sell-out crowd at the Rhinehart Music Center at Purdue University Fort Wayne and they’re already looking forward to next season.

Auditions for the 2023-2024 season start Monday, May 15 and run through May 17. There are additional dates on June 8 and June 27 as well. The auditions are held at the Rhinehart Music Center.

You can find more information about the Fort Wayne Children’s Choir, the audition process, cost, and more by visiting the choir’s website.