Commonwealth Youthchoirs transforms the lives of young people through the power of making music together – one song at a time.
Commonwealth Youthchoirs offers four programs, which combined serve more than 500 young people. Keystone State Boychoir (KSB) brings together 180 boys, ages 8-18, under the direction of Joseph P. Fitzmartin and Steven M. Fisher. KSB has spread the gift of music far and wide, and is the only choir in the world to have toured all seven continents. In 2009, KSB made history as the first choir to perform in Antarctica. Internationally, KSB has performed in the world’s major concert halls, including the Manaus Opera House in Brazil, the Petronas Philharmonik Hall in Malaysia, and the Hanoi Opera House in Vietnam, as well as in venues throughout Canada, Brazil, Chile, South Africa, Japan, Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, Malaysia, Australia, Monaco, France, Germany, Austria, Bulgaria and Norway. Major choral works that KSB has performed include Orff’s Carmina Burana, Handel’s Messiah, Mendelssohn’s Elijah, Britten’s St. Nicolas, and the Fauré Requiem. The Philadelphia Inquirer review declared KSB’s performance in the Bach St. Matthew Passion “excellent.” KSB made its Broadway debut in New York at The Shubert Theater in 2012. Also in 2012, KSB traveled to Norway and performed in a ceremony in Oslo for Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi. In 2013, KSB embarked on a concert tour of India accompanied by Arun Gandhi, grandson of Mahatma Gandhi. KSB has performed with Tony Award winners Norm Lewis and Brian Stokes Mitchell as well as with Carly Simon, the Philadelphia Orchestra and Opera Philadelphia. Today, KSB is counted among the the finest, most successful community-based boychoir programs in the world. Pennsylvania Girlchoir (PG) celebrates its 10th Anniversary in 2014. Under the direction of Music Director Vincent Metallo, PG maintains a repertoire steeped in the classical tradition and enhanced by music from many cultures and time periods. In 2007, the Girlchoir’s stellar performance in Mendelssohn’s oratorio Elijah with the Mendelssohn Club of Philadelphia led the Club’s music director, Alan Harler, to declare PG as “the finest girlchoir I’ve ever worked with,” and music critic Michael Caruso said PG “sang with impressive delicacy of tone, smoothness of balance and blend, and security of projection ….” The Philadelphia Inquirer lauded the Girlchoir’s debut with The Philadelphia Orchestra and The Philadelphia Singers. PG has also collaborated with Opera Philadelphia (for which it serves as its official girlchoir), the Curtis Institute of Music, the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts, Lyric Fest, WHYY, the University of Pennsylvania, and Network for New Music. Find Your Instrument! (FYI!) is an innovative, award-winning outreach program of Commonwealth Youthchoirs which brings choral music education to students who otherwise would not have an opportunity to sing during the school day. Currently, the program is based in the John Wister Elementary School and the Joseph Pennell Elementary School, both in the School District of Philadelphia. FYI! offers the children at participating schools the opportunity to discover their singing voices and the joy of singing in a group. FYI! is a two-tiered program. All 3rd-graders participate in weekly sessions that allow them to “find their singing voices” and discover the joy of singing together. Sharings are held to allow the FYI! students to share their newly-discovered instruments with children in the younger grades and their families. Good Mornin’ Music! (GMM!) was successfully launched in fall 2013 with music educator Mary Comtois. GMM! is a weekly Saturday morning program that gives both boys and girls from Pre-K to grade 2 the opportunity to joyfully discover and explore music making with their voices as well as with classroom percussion instruments. GMM! is a non-performance based experience that focuses on musical journey rather than destination. At the same time, in a way that is both fun and pedagogically-sound, the program lays a strong foundation for performance based choral opportunities or instrumental lessons a child might wish to pursue. Participating in GMM! is an excellent introduction to discovering other Commonwealth Youthchoirs programs as your child grows.
The Garden State Girlchoir (GSG) and the New Jersey Boychoir (NJB) are in their inaugural seasons. The two “brother – sister” choirs rehearse at the Unitarian Universal Church of Cherry Hill every Wednesday at 4:30pm and on certain Saturdays of the month with the cousin choirs, the Pennsylvania Girlchoir and the Keystone State Boychoir.
We believe that the deep and caring connection between our choral directors and our young singers is as essential to musical achievement as is musical knowledge. Our choral learning communities promote self-discipline, commitment, camaraderie and leadership in our singers. We value diversity in repertoire, in the cultural experiences we provide our young singers through touring, and especially in the backgrounds of our members and our audience.
A young person joins one of our programs with a desire to sing and a love of music. Membership in Commonwealth Youthchoirs requires great commitment, but the rewards are equally great. After participating in FYI! or GMM!, a young person leaves as a singer. Once a child joins KSB, PG, NJB, or GSG, he or she leaves as a musician. For participating children, the skills they learn, the music they make, the places they go, and the people they meet are deeply affecting experiences that will serve them and stay with them all their lives.