Indianapolis Children’s Choir provides more than music amid pandemic

By Samone Blair
Medill Reports

The Indianapolis Children’s Choir educates more than 5,000 young singers each year but amid the coronavirus pandemic, the non-profit organization is focusing on maintaining its community as much as it’s focusing on teaching music.

According to Artistic Director Joshua Pedde, the organization has been constantly adapting to new information about COVID-19, especially news that children could be affected with a related inflammatory syndrome and that singing could spread the virus up to 21 feet.

“Safety has been the first priority in everything we do,” Pedde said.

In addition to ensuring students were safe, the organization wanted to continue achieving its mission of “Music Education and Choral Performance” virtually while allowing singers to socialize as they would normally do in rehearsals.

Erin Mayer, president of the Indianapolis Children’s Choir Parent Association, has seen this firsthand with her ninth-grade daughter and third-grade son who are both members of the choir.

“They spent a lot of time kind of chatting with each other and sharing and honestly not a ton of time singing but it’s okay because I think that’s what they needed,” Mayer said. “With social distancing, the kids are missing the interaction.”

This sharing lead to a cabaret night in one of Pedde’s choirs, where students shared their other hobbies and talents. “The people who had just shared were crying because they were so touched,” Pedde said. “They shared another part of themselves that was so personal and here’s their family saying, ‘Wow, you are something awesome.'”

The sense of community isn’t limited to rehearsals or special events for the young singers, but also extends to their families in a giving program organized by the Indianapolis Children’s Choir. The program is called “Family Helping Family” and has allowed singers’ families in need to privately request aid from the office due to economic issues as a result of the pandemic. Other families can then help through donations.

“I was very proud of the organization and our families for stepping up,” Pedde said.

As an internationally recognized choir, the organization has led other community choirs through the pandemic, with Pedde serving on panels with other directors from across the country. “The sad fact is that some community choirs won’t survive this,” Pedde said. “They will shut their doors because they don’t have the revenue or the ability to keep doing this.”

With virtual lessons, the choir will be able to allow non-local students to receive music education. “If someone wants to be a part of the Indianapolis Children’s Choir, we’re now able to offer online opportunities for them to interact with us and receive training from us,” Pedde said. “So anyone from across the country or across the world can be a part of our summer camp.”

Photo at Top: Indianapolis Children’s Choir members sing “Unity” in a virtual performance. (Courtesy of Indianapolis Children’s Choir)