Trenton Children’s Chorus’ (TCC) cultural presence in and for the City of Trenton has historically leveled the playing field in artistic and academic opportunities for its members, and the upcoming 2020-2021 season is no exception. Coinciding with Governor Murphy’s current three-pronged approach to address inequity for New Jersey’s youth in regard to internet and technology, TCC is prioritizing bridging the educational gap for its members by offering a wealth of digital, technological, and musical resources at a significantly reduced price this fall.
“We were primarily an after school program, where we would pick kids up from school, bring them to our place, offer snacks, help them with their homework, offer mentoring opportunities and games and enrichment activities,” said Kate Mulligan, Executive Director of TCC. “Obviously, we can’t do any of that and we also can’t sing together.”
She continued, “So we have to really revolutionize what we offer. We have completely changed to something that would be useful for the kids that we serve, even though we couldn’t run the same program that we’ve been running for 30 years.”
Entering their thirty-first year of operation during a global pandemic, the TCC has uplifted their normal routine of running their program and adjusted it based on the needs of the Trenton community.
Under the new Artistic Director Vinroy D. Brown Jr.’s vision, the traditional choral program has been adjusted to the following virtual offerings this fall: musical electives offered twice a week, a Composer-In-Residence program and a special focus on the TCC Learning Academy as a crucial resource for Trenton students during this time.
“While we’ve had to close our physical doors, I am honored that our virtual door for programming allows communities in Trenton and abroad (as far as Texas) to access our programming this year.” said Brown. “I could not be more pleased with our outstanding staff, our families and most importantly, our choristers for their support of the new TCC vision.”
The new music opportunities for students enrolled this fall consist of piano, conducting, music theory, poetry, drumming and musical theatre. The Musicians Forum listed for Chorale on Thursday evenings will bring in artists and professionals in music to speak to TCC’s choristers about their experiences.
TCC will also provide instruments and equipment for students enrolled in these electives. Mulligan said, “We have delivered pianos, ukuleles, recorders and drums to the students that have chosen to take those electives, so all the kids that are in fourth grade through 12th grade get a choice of three electives every week.”
A capstone initiative available to all TCC members will include the Composer-In-Residence program – which will bring a composer to TCC to work through the creation of a choral work – from text to music- throughout the entire year. For this inaugural year, TCC has engaged renowned musician Professor Damien L. Sneed.
Sneed is a multi-hyphenate performer whose skills cross musical genres from gospel to opera. Sneed is a talented pianist, organist, conductor, composer, producer, arranger, vocal coach and educator who has worked with several musical icons in pop, jazz, R&B, and classical including Diana Ross, Stevie Wonder, Wynton Marsalis, Aretha Franklin, Ashford & Simpson, Jessye Norman, Lawrence Brownlee, Wycliffe Gordon, Eric Reed and other legends.
“The kids in each choir are writing the lyrics; they’re writing the poetry,” said Mulligan. “We have five different choirs and each choir is coming up with their own four lines of text that Damien is setting to music.”
On top of the new flexibility TCC offers to its students during this pandemic crisis, TCC is also providing every student a free Kindle Fire for every student enrolled in the Learning Academy, with hotspots provided to families without wi-fi access.
Each enrolled student must complete an assessment, parents must attend a virtual orientation to the Academy and students must complete an additional three sessions in the Learning Academy in order to keep their Kindle fire. TCC hopes this offer will supply equal access to all students interested in joining their programs.
“In the history of the Trenton Children’s Chorus, we have never wanted money to be a barrier for anybody coming,” said Mulligan. “We understand that this is a very tough time for many of our families.”
In past years, the TCC has always offered a sliding scale payment for those families in financially insecure predicaments. This year, the entire program is only $50 a semester for all participants. Even with that price, the TCC is willing to speak with families who may struggle to produce that payment as well.
Mulligan said, “We welcome with open arms, anybody that wants to take advantage of these programs that we offer.”
To learn more about the Trenton Children’s Chorus and how to get involved, please visit: http://trentonchildrenschorus.org
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