While the World’s Largest Concert sponsored for many years by the National Association for Music Education (NAfME) has gone the way of the dodo bird, a new and exciting program has stepped in to fill that void: American Young Voices hosts the largest school choral concerts in the world in five cities for music students in grades 2 through 8 and their teachers.
The aim of these concerts is to provide a valuable musical experience for children and their teachers that they will remember for the rest of their lives. The staff of American Young Voices (AYV) – working with their handpicked music director, the renowned Francisco Núñez – are accomplishing that here in the States, just as Young Voices International has for the past 20 years in Europe and around the world.
I discovered American Young Voices last year while I was researching and writing a piece for Music In Our Schools Month®. The program sounded exciting, so I dug a bit deeper and found that this movement started back in 1997 in the U.K. with concerts in Sheffield, Manchester, Birmingham and Belfast. Since that time, it has expanded across the globe to Ireland, Germany, Trinidad and Tobago, and South Africa. In 2015, it came to the United States, starting in a few cities and expanding rapidly.
I was given the unique opportunity by American Young Voices to attend a rehearsal and concert as well as review the educational packet that they provide to every participating school. I witnessed a rehearsal lasting several hours that included approximately 6,000 students from grades 2 through 8, and I was astounded! And after 34 years in teaching, it takes quite a bit to astound me!
There were thousands of voices working together, listening for instructions, responding to Maestro Núñez’s musical ideas and suggestions, and producing an absolutely lovely singing tone with fullness, depth, and plenty of excitement. There were moments when I heard absolute silence as each and every student listened with rapt attention to a story, idea, or technique that the maestro was conveying to them. Then they were able to take those directions and put them into practice. The camaraderie between Maestro Núñez and the students – as well as between the students themselves – that formed over those couple of hours of work was a wonder to behold. The concert was just as amazing, as these young singers, the band, and Maestro Núñez became their own community and then put on a show that was musical, exciting, and entertaining for their parents and the unique and diverse communities where they live and go to school.
I found out later that the excellence I witnessed was a product of the workshops AYV provides and the teacher community that AYV has built with each and every teacher whose students participate. While American Young Voices is about building a community of singers, it is also working hard to develop an extensive teacher network that begins long before the rehearsal and continues long after the concert lights have grown dim. Upon registering, teachers receive all of the music the students will need to learn along with a CD with vocal and accompaniment tracks, conducting and teaching notes, suggestions, and ideas straight from the pen of Francisco Núñez. This alone is enough to help you deliver exciting and meaningful musical opportunities with your students, but AYV takes it one step further and links each of the activities and songs to the National Core Arts Standards for Music with specific aims and objectives identified!
The American Young Voices experience has had a profound effect on students and teachers, but it has also had the effect of supporting strong music programs and strengthening and growing some music programs that have been in trouble. There are no auditions required to participate, and any school that can arrange transportation to the concerts in the northeastern United States is welcome.
All in all, this is a wonderful opportunity to explore music beyond your own door. It keeps the idea of the World’s Largest Concert alive (unlike the poor dodos), and the cost to the school is a mere $95 regardless of how many students you have participating – and yes, you can use the materials that you receive in a performance at your own school! Since the concerts are held in arenas, they have included as many as 8,000 students. Therefore, large and small choirs are welcome, and I would urge any music educator, or for that matter any teacher who loves music and teaches elementary and middle school students, to check this out.
If you live in the northeastern United States, you can still register in March to be a part of this remarkable program this year. Concert dates in several cities are planned for early June. For everyone else, you can get a taste of what the program has to offer by visiting the American Young Voices website.
To view music by renowned conductor Francisco Núñez, click here.