FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) – It is a special time in the Fort Wayne community, as the Fort Wayne Children’s Choir celebrates 50 years of making music. The golden anniversary season is underway with the choir’s annual Choralfest day camp.

The choir was started in 1973 by Jocelyn Basse, a school teacher. She now lives in Michigan and the choir hopes to have her return in May for this season’s Spring Concert.

The choir was founded by Basse because there were not enough opportunities for music education in schools. Back then, there was only one choir made up of a small group of singers.

Fast forward to present-day, the choir is made up of eight choirs and has over 250 singers from 11 different area counties. Some kids even commute from Ohio to participate in the choir. The choir grew steadily in size over time, but especially when Fred Meads was the Artistic Director of the program. He did a tremendous job reaching out to local schools and grew the program exponentially.

More recently, the choir has expanded to include additional offerings for early childhood music. The choir now serves kids up to eighteen years of age. Kids up to five years old can participate in a ‘First Steps in Music’ program. Ages six and seven can participate in an eight week preparatory program. Kids here will learn the building blocks of singing and learn how to be in a choir. Then from age eight to eighteen, students can be a part of the curricular choirs. There is an audition to join the choir, but almost all students are accepted. Choir members do have to pay tuition, but assistance is available for those who need it.

The Choralfest day camp has been around for a long time. It kicks off the choir’s new season by getting all the choirs together for five straight days. Kids sing and participate in classes, such as folk dance, chimes, mallets, drama, and even art this year at Purdue Fort Wayne. The week culminates with a free concert at Foellinger Outdoor Theatre on Friday at 7 p.m. The choirs share the music they have learned throughout the week.

The theme of the 50th anniversary season is “Growing through Music.” Friday’s concert will include a variety of repertoire around the themes of nature, trees, and growing, and will feature a performance of the choir’s 2005 commission, The Earth’s Been Good to Me, by composer Nick Page. The theme is meant to look back at 50 years of growth and look forward to how the choir will grow this season and into the future. This season, each choir is commissioning a new piece of music with a composer that will debut at the Spring Concert in May.

A new event also headlines the choir’s season. On Thursday, September 1st from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m., the choir is hosting ‘Rhythm & Brews’ at Promenade Park. The event costs $50 to attend and features food from Shigs in Pit, beer from Trubble Brewing, and live music from FWCC alum Grace Minnick.

Current Executive Artistic Director Jonathan Busarow came to the choir ten years ago. He loves teaching kids how to read music. He also enjoys helping students develop an appreciation for the arts and gain exposure to different cultures. This adds to the quality and enjoyment of life.

Irene Ator, Artistic Assistant and Principal Accompanist, has been a part of the choir for 23 out of the 50 years. She first joined the choir when Fred Meads asked her to join the choir’s tour to Shrewsbury, England. She has no plans of slowing down as long as she can still play the piano.

The tours tend to be the greatest memories for the students. The choir has been to Hawaii, the west coast, the east coast, Canada, Newfoundland, England twice, and Hungary a few years ago, to name a few of the tours.

Ator says it has been wonderful to see the growth of the choir and see the new possibilities for the future. All the directors she has worked with have been unique and wonderful. She is also proud of what alumni have done with their lives; some have gone into music and many still sing. The choir is special to her because of what kids learn and how they grow personally. They learn lifelong leadership skills and how to be more independent. Everyone in choir becomes like family and it is a safe place for the kids.

If you are interested in having your child join the choir, visit their website here. You can also view upcoming performances and find out how you can support the choir.