Arts in the Schools

Houston Chamber Choir's Hear The Future Spotlights K-12 Choirs

Parker Elementary Choir (Houston ISD) performing in 2020 Hear the Future Sunday Invitational Concert.
Parker Elementary Choir (Houston ISD) performing in 2020 Hear the Future Sunday Invitational Concert. Photo by Jeff Grass Photography
The sweet voices of Houston’s K-12 choirs will fill the sanctuary of South Main Baptist Church during the Houston Chamber Choir’s 22nd annual Hear the Future invitational choral festival this Sunday. This year’s community concert is free and open to the public, and it promises to entertain and inspire audiences as they “hear” that the future of choral music is bright.

Each year, Houston Chamber Choir invites three outstanding school choirs from the Greater Houston area to participate in its invitational choral festival. Parker Elementary School’s Advanced Chorus, the North Shore Middle School Choir, and the Cy-Fair Chorale will be this year’s featured performers. The weekend culminates in a performance featuring the K-12 choirs as well as the Houston Chamber Choir.

“Many school choirs perform, but it's usually in their own school or with other schools. Seldom do they get invited out into the big community, so this is a real thrill for us and for them,” said Houston Chamber Choir Founder and Artistic Director Robert Simpson. “[It also] shows our appreciation for the wonderful music educators who are inspiring our students, the next generation of performers and music appreciators.”

To further its positive impact on our region’s school choral programs, Hear the Future now includes a VIP Choral Clinic for eight high schools, many of which are Title I. The clinic will take place on Saturday, led by Eduardo García-Novelli, a University of Houston graduate who is the newly appointed Director of Choral Activities at the University of Kansas.
click to enlarge Tompkins High School Chorale (Katy ISD) performing in 2019 Hear the Future Invitational Concert. - PHOTO BY JEFF GRASS PHOTOGRAPHY
Tompkins High School Chorale (Katy ISD) performing in 2019 Hear the Future Invitational Concert.
Photo by Jeff Grass Photography
During the workshop, the choirs are paired into four groups with two groups participating in a morning session followed by the second two groups in the afternoon.

“Each choir will sing for Dr. García-Novelli while the second choir observes, and then they'll flip and the choir that was singing will then observe the second choir so that they'll be able to learn both from what Dr. García-Novelli says to them but also to what he says to the other choir. There is something about being able to observe when you're not in the hot seat, and you can listen to the choir and then listen to the feedback,” Simpson said. “That can be very, very helpful and you can retain the information that he's giving you in a thoroughly processed way…it's a growth moment with no strings attached. There is not going to be a grade on the report card or anything like that. It's an opportunity to further their own abilities and understanding.”

Simpson feels the weekend reaps giant rewards for all involved, and one experience from a previous Hear the Future concert reminds him why.

“There was one director several years ago who was sitting with his choir as they were listening to another choir. One of his girls started crying, so he leaned over and asked, ‘Are you okay? Is everything okay?’ And she said the music was so beautiful that it brought her to tears,” Simpson detailed. “And we've heard the directors say how much it's meant to them and their singers to have this educational opportunity. So, we do feel as if this design is achieving its goal of creating inspiration.”

It's also a love letter to the teachers who lead the charge of caring for the children and providing an arts education.

Hear the Future celebrates the music teachers and recognizes them. So many of our teachers go unsung. To be able to say thank you for all that you offer and particularly in these trying times, thanks for keeping the music going, thank you for continuing to bring wonderful music into the lives of our children…that's a gift that we are pleased to do.”
click to enlarge Nolan Ryan Junior High School (Alvin ISD) performing in 2016 Hear the Future Sunday Invitational Concert. - PHOTO BY JEFF GRASS PHOTOGRAPHY
Nolan Ryan Junior High School (Alvin ISD) performing in 2016 Hear the Future Sunday Invitational Concert.
Photo by Jeff Grass Photography
It's no secret that funding for arts in the public schools has been increasingly more challenging to find, so programs like Hear the Future are a rarified opportunity to enhance the chances to learn and grow thanks to all that an arts education provides.

“Arts education, for me, is not a side issue. It is a critical issue that enriches the whole person. We certainly want to have an educated populace who have scientific, mathematical and language skills. But an arts education really is fundamental to creating the whole person…a person who is both intellectually and emotionally developed at a higher level of sensitivity and human compassion,” Simpson proffered.

“Participation in the arts also teaches teamwork. You don't have to be on a sports team to learn teamwork. There's no greater team than a choir, where everyone is working together. The advantage of a choir is that there is no second string. Nobody's sitting on the bench. Everybody on that team is singing, playing and working together to a greater goal that is beyond their individual selves. Participating in a choir or orchestra or dance troupe teaches all of the interpersonal skills, plus it awakens that personal expression that makes them a whole and complete person,” he added.

Hear the Future’s concert finale takes place at 4 p.m. Sunday, January 30 at South Main Baptist Church, 4100 Main. For information, visit houstonchamberchoir.org. Free.
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Sam Byrd is a freelance contributor to the Houston Press who loves to take in all of Houston’s sights, sounds, food and fun. He also loves helping others to discover Houston’s rich culture.
Contact: Sam Byrd