John Lemley and Mark Gresham | 15 MAY 2019
MORROW, GA— The critically acclaimed Spivey Hall Children’s Choir celebrates its silver anniversary this year, culminating with their three springtime concerts this coming Friday, Saturday and Sunday at Spivey Hall in advance the choir’s “Give Back Tour” to Chattanooga and Nashville, Tennessee, coming up in June.
Dr. Martha Shaw has been the Choir’s artistic director since its beginnings 25 years ago. Veteran radio personality and journalist John Lemley recently interviewed Shaw for EarRelevant. Their conversation is presented here as streamed audio.*
Established in 1994, three years after the opening of Spivey Hall, the Children’s Choir program was from its beginnings an integral part of the strategic plan of the Hall’s founders, Atlanta real estate developers Emilie and Walter Spivey. In addition to presenting top-level artists in a world-class venue, they wanted to make Spivey Hall a center for music education to serve children of the community. Since its founding, over 1,000 student singers have participated in the Children’s Choir program, receiving the direct benefits of the rigorous training and commitment to artistic excellence.
The program consists of three choirs and draws its singers, ages 10 to 18, from 17 metro-Atlanta counties. Membership and placement is by audition, based on artistic merit and teacher recommendations, with need-based financial assistance for participants available to those who qualify.
“The Spivey Hall Children’s Choir program is not solely about the beautiful music made by its singers,” says Shaw in a press release. “From its inception, the choir was designed to care more about their character than the sound they produce. I would tell them that I was more interested in who they would become as a person than how they sang, and that was saying a lot! As a result, we have sought to develop the whole musician and prepare them for success, no matter what they pursued in life.”
Shaw keeps in touch with many SHCC alumni, and often hears stories of their continuing successes. Some have pursued a career in music, while others have become dedicated doctors, non-profit leaders, or teachers working with at-risk youth. What they share in common is the experience gained as a member of a successful children’s choir and acknowledging its contributions to their achievements as adults.
“Each year there are 170 students in the program, all with different social experiences, different family backgrounds, different life goals,” Shaw emphasizes. “They have to learn to be unified in their diversity and work together as a team to deliver the highest standard of performance. For
the Tour Choir, these singers also have to travel together, inseparable for 10 to 14 days, sometimes in a foreign country. They have to learn to get along, to depend on one another as they work towards a common goal. Those are life skills that translate to more than just a choir.” ■
*This is EarRelevnt’s debut streamed audio report, created and produced by John Lemley. John is an Atlanta-based host and producer who has been a mainstay of the city’s media scene for over 20 years, first as an on-air host and producer at 90.1 WABE, then as host and producer of John Lemley’s City Café on 1690 WLMB. John currently serves as an investigative reporter for Nancy Grace’s new Sirius XM radio program, Crime Stories.