Youth Choir of Central Oregon
The Voice of the Next Generation
By Annette Benedetti
Song is one of the most important and widely used parenting tools. The lullaby can help a restless infant drift off to sleep, while a sweet melody can stop tears or elicit laughter in an instant. It’s no wonder that so many children love to sing. Fortunately for Central Oregon families, the Youth Choir of Central Oregon (YCCO) offers local children a place to find, explore, and grow their passion for singing from the age of six all of the way through the end of their high school years.
Founded by Beth Basham in 1990, the YCCO is a non-profit organization that provides an extra-curricular choral program with three separate choirs designed for children attending first through twelfth grades. The choirs are appropriately named Singers School, Debut Choir, and Premiere Choir— and they each give young participants the opportunity to evolve as vocalists over the years.
Singers School is an audition-free choir for children attending first through fourth grade. It is designed as a 10-week program that allows its students to explore singing and discover their level of interest. It culminates in a community performance that takes place on stage along with the organization’s other two choirs.
The Debut Choir welcomes fifth through eighth-grade children. Students interested in joining must audition, but this shouldn’t dissuade singers from trying. According to Founder and Artistic Director Beth Basham, eighty to ninety percent of the children who audition are accepted into the choir. “When parents enroll their child in this organization they’re doing something really wonderful for them,” says Basham. “They are giving their kids the gift of self-confidence as well, and so much more.”
As part of the Debut Choir curriculum, students learn note reading and receive both vocal and performance skill training. Over the course of their time in this choir, young vocalists grow their musicianship and gradually prepare for the Premier Choir.
The Premier Choir is where talented singers hone and perfect their skills and focus on performance. Members of this choir are also offered the opportunity to be part of the Touring Choir and perform in musical festivals both nationally and internationally. According to Basham, the Touring Choir used to travel internationally every three years and domestically on a yearly basis, however recently there have been several international opportunities that she couldn’t pass up. “How often can you take between 25 and 35 kids to another country in a safe environment and make beautiful music with other people from all over the world,” says Basham.
Last year the Traveling Choir went to Austria, and this year it is preparing to go to Japan where the children will join and perform with anywhere from 350 to 1000 young people from around the world. When asked how she chooses which music festival the choir will attend, Basham says she only chooses festivals where she both knows and respects the Master Conductor in charge. “The first thing I focus on is whether the musical experience will be something that enhances [the students] lives while helping them become better singers and people,” says Basham.
Prior to traveling, Basham prepares the choir at home and then takes them to the festival where the Master Conductor takes over and puts the whole performance together. Students from the Premier Choir are not required to participate in the Traveling Choir due to the associated expenses.
While parents of children participating in the Traveling Choir are responsible for the expenses, Basham is proud of the fact that the YCCO has never turned down a singer because of finances. She says, “We have never said ‘you are talented but you can’t sing with us because you can’t afford it,’ we always find a way to make it happen.” According to Basham the YCCO has generous donors who help the organization provide scholarships to those in need, so that everyone can participate.
Auditions for the YCCO are held in June and performances take place in February and May. Families interested in finding out more about the YCCO are encouraged to attend the concerts with their children and bring them to one of the rehearsals, which are always open to the public.
Youth Choir of Central Oregon