A performance of the Young People’s Chorus of New York City and the Music Academy’s Sing! group | Credit: Zach Mendez

MacArthur Award winner, composer, and conductor Francisco J. Núñez and acclaimed composer and 2019 Miss America Nia Imani Franklin are in town this week to lead a residency program at the Music Academy for choir conductors and enthusiastic singers in grades 6-12. The Young People’s Chorus of New York City (YPC) National Lab and Studio Summer Program brings artistic faculty together with conductors, teachers, and students — including children in the Music Academy’s Sing! Program, a free, after-school choral initiative open to students in Santa Barbara County in 1st through 6th grade — for a week of musical training and instruction. 

“The Sing! children are abuzz with excitement,” said Director Erin McKibben, adding that about 70 of them will be represented at the final performance.

Young performers from Sing! | Credit: Zach Mendez

The culmination of the program is the world premiere of “Tides,” at the Lobero Theatre Sunday, July 23. A specially commissioned composition by Franklin, “The piece is about really celebrating the earth and showing gratitude and bringing awareness to it,” she said in a phone interview. “Being that I’m working with kids on this piece, it’s all about the next generation and our future. So who better to sing this song than the kids from the Young People’s Chorus?” 

This is the second summer that the Music Academy has collaborated with Young People’s Chorus of N.Y.C., a group that has been inspiring choirs around the country and around the world for 36 seasons. Núñez was at the World Choir Games in Gangneung, Republic of Korea, when we spoke on the phone last week, leading the Young People’s Chorus of New York City to five gold medals, in what is the equivalent of the Olympics of choir competition. 

Sing! loves working with the YPC team, said McKibben. “YPC inspires our young singers by embodying what is musically possible for them. They experience through mentorships with the high-school-aged singers of YPC that they are capable of creating beauty and contributing their voice to something larger than themselves.”

Last summer, YPC, Núñez, and Franklin worked with the Music Academy on a commission celebrating Juneteenth becoming a national holiday. 

“The YPC National Studio is an opportunity to strengthen conducting mechanics and discuss choral philosophy with like-minded conductors from across the country, which is also wonderful exposure for our young artists,” said McKibben. “In addition to learning varied repertoire from around the world, they will get the chance to breathe life into a newly composed piece of music by Nia Imani Franklin, again empowering them to dream and create for themselves.”

Added Núñez, “We need to understand the most important, the most valuable asset we have are our children. And who is seeing them eight hours a day, every day, for 180 days a year are these teachers. We need to prepare our future through our young people and our teachers. The YPC National is trying to inspire them and help them see the beauty and how music can be a universal language and bring it all together and help them all be inspired.”

Music Academy presents Young People’s Chorus of New York City & Sing! on Sunday, July 23, at 3 p.m. at the Lobero Theatre (33 E. Canon Perdido St.). See lobero.org/events.

The Music Academy’s Sing! Program participants | Credit: Zach Mendez


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