Choir Teaches Singing and Service

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By Sara Hall | NB Indy


A local children’s choir is celebrating their one-year anniversary with a season full of holiday performances.

The Young Singers of Orange County perform for seniors, community events, service  clubs, and charity fundraisers.

Their events included the Newport-Balboa Rotary Club Christmas Boat Parade party at Bahia Corinthian Yacht Club on Wednesday.

The group of kids ages 5 to 14 have performed more than a dozen times at various public and private events during their inaugural year. They have also performed for a fundraiser for victims of the Haiti earthquake and raised $2,000.

During the holiday season, performances range from a private concert for residents of a senior healthcare facility to a party for a Rotary Club, to entertaining 600 volunteers packing food for 28,000 needy mouths just before Christmas. They also plan on some caroling with the kids who have not gone away for the holidays.

The singing group was founded in late 2009 by Samantha Smith as part of her senior project. She met Christopher Trela when she went to spend an afternoon with him for a mentoring program. Trela, a local publicist and writer (and one-half of the Indy’s dining writing team), encouraged her to take the choir further than a senior project or a sublet of another charity and make it her own nonprofit organization.

“Chris (Trela) got excited about Sam and what she wanted to do,” said Peter Smith.

She is now a freshman at Vassar College in New York, but keeps in touch with her instructors and students regularly, even video-conferencing in to rehearsals each week to keep tabs on their progress.

“I’m just really glad that the choir has continued to thrive now that I’m no longer there to run it in person,” Smith said. “I’m so lucky to have both a solid board behind me to keep things in order, and a fantastic team of instructors who are doing a great job with the kids”.

Smith will be back in Newport Beach for the holiday season so she can enjoy most of the performances with her choir.

The Young Singers are led by volunteer instructors who are still in high school.

There is also another group within the YSOC, a subset of it, said Peter Smith, for some of the older kids who are serious about singing. They sing more and have more opportunities to develop their skills. Then as they get older and pass the age limit to be in the choir, they can come back to be instructors or sit on the board.

“It’s a great thing to have on their resume,” said Peter Smith.

One of the objectives of the choir is not just to have kids sing, said Peter Smith, father of founder Samantha Smith, but also to teach community service.

“It stemmed out of Sam’s community service experience,” said Peter Smith. “She wanted to pass on that spirit and mentality.”

Peter Smith said his daughter and the group are particularly interested in having the kids perform for seniors and building a bond between them.

They really enjoy the singing, said Peter Smith, but they also learn a lot about community service, the importance of giving back, teamwork, how a nonprofit works and what it’s like to sit on a board (which they are able to do when they age out of the program).

The kids love the reactions they get from the people they perform for, said Peter Smith, and seeing their faces.

Part of the reason the group has been successful this year is because Samantha Smith has been able to work her own connections and network. She has been singing professionally for several years and has done a lot of work with various charities over the years.

“She has a lot of connections in the community,” said Peter Smith.

Samantha Smith’s ambition for the choir group is that it will grow and spin off into other groups around Orange County, Peter Smith said.

Their next performance will be on Dec. 19 at the Roosters Holiday Food Drive at Second Harvest Food Bank in the Irvine Great Park. Another upcoming performance will be a fundraiser with a choir group from Brown University, scheduled for Jan. 9. It will similar to a fundraising gig they put on last year with an a capella group from Yale.

“It’s not a formal choir,” Peter Smith said, “it’s a fun choir.”


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