ENGLEWOOD — The Chicago Children's Choir wants to extend its after-school music program to kids living in neighborhoods that lack them, and Englewood is first on the youth choir's list.
With 3,500 youth in grades 3-12 participating each year, the organization plans to start the Englewood Neighborhood Choir Program in September.
"Our goal is to bring children together from different backgrounds and expose them to music," said Misho Ceko, chief operating officer for the 57-year-old Chicago Children's Choir. "Students from 60 Chicago Public Schools [including Benjamin Mays Academy in Englewood] are a part of our program, and our goal is to open neighborhood choirs in areas that need them."
Ceko said a location hasn't been determined for the new program, but a park site would be ideal.
Teaching music to youth from disadvantaged neighborhoods isn't always easy, Ceko said.
"Some students are a little reluctant to learn music outside their comfort zone in the beginning, but eventually they come around," Ceko said. "Some kids may only listen to certain music like gospel, but before you know it they're singing classical music."
Keeping youth in Englewood safe is another reason why the South Side community was chosen first.
“Violence in Chicago has reached epidemic proportions,” said Josephine Lee, president and artistic director for the organization. “We, as a community, must help our city’s children find an alternative to the streets, and music holds the power to change their lives.”
Ceko said, unlike the Chicago Choir, the Englewood Choir would operate beyond the typical school year, which is August to June.
The organization is also hoping to raise $100,000 to launch the Englewood initiative.
"Through corporations, foundations and donors, who already support us, we are hoping to raise monies to help launch the Englewood program," Ceko said. "About $2 million annually is raised through this effort, but whether we raise the $100,000 or not the program will start this fall.
"Ideally, we are looking to connect with organizations in the area who already have youth programs."
Teamwork Englewood is one local organization that offers youth programs, and would be a good partner for the new program, said its program manager, Rosiland Moore.
Moore said Teamwork Englewood hopes to attract more youths this year by fostering relationships with schools.
"Our future is determined by the success of our youth. That is what we want to protect, build and invest more in as the year goes on," Moore said.