• Dr. Zanaida Robles with Kids in Concert.The San Gabriel Valley Choral Company’s new training program for elementary school kids culminates this Saturday at 7:30pm in Monrovia during the “Ring in the Holidays” concert.

      By Debra Penberthy

      When I was a child, I took it for granted that I would be attending music classes as part of my normal school week. Today, after the drastic cuts in funding for arts education that have taken place across much of the country, the opportunity to sing and play instruments as an elementary school student is no longer a given. Music educators and conductors at the college and professional level have lamented this lack of music education for young people. One of their concerns is that it leaves many people without the skills and knowledge to fully engage in music as a listener or participant. Given that music is considered a universal language, this is a significant loss. It also means that when students begin to pursue singing or playing music, they often lack fundamental skills and knowledge that must be addressed at a later age than in the past.

      Kids in Concert rehearse the Twelve Days of Christmas song

      Kids in Concert rehearse the Twelve Days of Christmas song

      The San Gabriel Valley Choral Company (SGVCC), a largely volunteer choir based in Monrovia, is working to make headway on this issue. Dr. Zanaida Robles is the artistic director of SGVCC, and her two young daughters attend Monrovia’s Monroe Elementary School. Dr. Robles noticed that while her daughters had some instrumental music opportunities at their school, they lacked formal opportunities to sing. Thus, recently she decided to start a choral education program sponsored by SGVCC and held at Monroe. The program is called Kids in Concert, and it gives the opportunity for kindergarteners through fifth graders to learn the basics of singing, culminating in students performing in the SGVCC holiday concert. The first annual performance will be this Saturday evening, December 6 in Monrovia, during SGVCC’s “Ring in the Holidays” concert.

      Dr. Zanaida Robles conducting

      Dr. Zanaida Robles conducting

      Dr. Robles explained the genesis of the program:

      I have a really deep belief that holiday concerts need to have children in them. So at the outset of this program my aim was simply to have kids involved in the concert. More importantly though, music education in schools has diminished so drastically over the last several decades, so this was an opportunity to fulfill a need in the school system. And now, my focus has shifted entirely to trying to develop ways of engaging the students and helping them develop real skill sets that they can use to actually become musicians. And these are skills that they can take with them throughout school, and that will help them in lots of areas of their lives. And from the very first session we’ve had, you can see them taking ownership and feeling good about something valuable that they’re actually getting from this program.

      Lanayah Gholar (left) and Sophia Preciado (right) rehearse a song

      Lanayah Gholar (left) and Sophia Preciado (right) rehearse a song

      The students and parents have been very enthusiastic about this program in its inaugural year. Though the program can only accommodate 32 students due to space limitations, almost 100 students applied to participate. It is Dr. Robles’ hope that those who were turned away will be able to participate in future years. The president of the Monroe School PTA, Michelle Shechtman, expressed her gratitude for the program this way:

      With all of the budget cuts that school districts have been experiencing, it is wonderful to have this program come to our school. Our kids were so excited. We had way more applications than we had spaces. Our kids cried happy tears when they found out that they were going to be able to participate in this. At Monroe, there is not a chorus. So this gives our students not only an opportunity to learn choral arrangements, but also an opportunity to perform. And some of these kids would never get this opportunity otherwise, so we are truly fortunate and honored.

      Come out and hear these young singers along with the highly skilled voices of the San Gabriel Valley Choral Company this Saturday evening. There will be pieces by Holst, Britten, Tallis, and even Dr. Robles. You’ll have an opportunity to sing along as well!

      What: San Gabriel Valley Choral Company’s “Ring in the Holidays” concert featuring the young voices of Kids in Concert.

      Where: First Presbyterian Church, 101 E Foothill Blvd, Monrovia, CA 91016
      When: Saturday, December 6, 2014 from 7:30 p.m. to 9:00 p.m.

      Tickets: advance purchase prices are $5 for children under 12, $10 for students and seniors, and $15 for adults. Tickets may also be purchased at the door for $5-$20. Click  here for full details and to buy tickets.

      Full disclosure: the author of this article, Debra Penberthy, is the general manager of the San Gabriel Valley Choral Company.


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