One of the things that makes us a unique Boychoir is our focus on travel. Every boy who sings with us travels.
Our earliest singers travel around our town, visiting assisted living centers and nursing homes. As they work their way from novice to advanced choirs, they travel further and stay away longer. But even those boys who stay within our region still explore the world by studying and performing music.
When we learn a new piece, we also talk about its history and context, study the language and dialect used, learn about its poetry, and listen to its particular musical voice. This process gives our boys an opportunity to engage with many of the world’s cultures. And in doing so, they develop an understanding of their global community and practice the empathy skills they need to build personal connections.
We call this approach to learning music a cultural curriculum. In the 2016-2017 and 2017-2018 seasons, this cultural curriculum has introduced our boys to the Civil Rights movement in the United States and South Africa.
Over the past two years, we worked with guest artists on Gospel and Spiritual music and with a clinician from Chicago Children’s Choir who is an expert on the music of South Africa. We learned elements of the Zulu language from a native Zulu speaker and elements of isicathamiya performance during a workshop with the Grammy-winning South African group Ladysmith Black Mambazo. We offered readings and special resources to our families to learn about the struggle of Apartheid in South Africa. And our study culminates in a trip to South Africa for the Ambassadors, our elite touring ensemble, in June 2018.
This approach has been so successful that we are structuring our cultural curriculum into a formal three-year program. We will immerse ourselves into one culture, language, location, or musical style, and our touring and community activities will enhance and expand that study.
From 2018 to 2021, the Boychoir will undertake a deep study of the Hispanic world, with a special focus on Hispanic life in the United States in the twenty-first century. Using music as our vehicle, we will also explore the Spanish-language cultures of South, Central, and North America as well as Europe. The Boychoir will welcome conversations about immigration, the changing demographics of the United States, colonialism, and more. We intend to engage Cincinnati’s Hispanic community in the conversation. We have already assembled the beginnings of a Hispanic Cultural Curriculum task force to help guide this process and have joined the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce to broaden our base of knowledge and support.
2018 will also feature a change in our published materials, as we will publish them in Spanish and English throughout the three-year cycle. We are planning our tours to expand and enhance the boys’ discovery and understanding of Latin music, choosing destinations where the Hispanic culture is strong, both in and out of the United States. We look forward to learning and growing together as we explore the Spanish world through music.