While many young people and their families take advantage of summer's waning days with one last vacation, members of Contra Costa Children's Chorus are gearing up for a busy season and getting to know their new artistic director.
Martinez resident Andrew Brown became the artistic director of the 30-year-old chorus this summer and recently spent a week at music camp getting to know his new singers.
"I love working with young people, especially with an organization like CCCC," said Brown, who received his bachelor of music degree from La Sierra University and his masters of music at Holy Names University. "Young people are capable of extraordinary things when challenged to do them. But it takes discipline and focus and commitment to each other. And, these kids are the best of the best. They could be playing sports or hanging out with friends at the mall, but they chose music."
Brown, also the artistic director of Vallejo Choral Society and a longtime conductor with Piedmont East Bay Children's Chorus, believes in starting musical training as early as possible.
"We've found that kids studying music have a willingness to discipline themselves, a willingness to train their minds in a certain way that gives them a real edge," Brown explained. "When you're in a choral rehearsal for two hours, your brain is stimulated in a very, very deep way. When you walk out of rehearsal, your learning curve is very high. You remember information better, are open to new ideas and can adapt to new environments."
Brown feels the exposure the choral students receive from touring nationally and internationally helps them socially as well.
"They meet kids from other cultures and visit with their families.
"It's a great way to learn and to become a good world citizen," he said.
"When they come back to their school in the Bay Area, their sense of the world is very different."
The organization plans a national tour for next June or July and an international tour for summer 2016.
One of Brown's goals is to build the musicianship of each student.
"We'll focus on the inner ear and learning to sing absolute pitch," he said. "It gives singers such confidence to be independent musicians and not rely on the piano to bang out the notes for them."
A longtime advocate for the benefits of music in all aspects of development, Brown began his career as an orchestral conductor.
The clarinetist received an artists diploma in instrumental conducting from the Hartt Conservatory in Connecticut, and went on to work as a conductor throughout the United States.
In 1996, he returned to California and began working with youth choirs, which changed his career trajectory.
Brown lives in Martinez with his wife Stella, a music educator for the Mt. Diablo Unified School District, as well as a choral conductor and pianist ("Children's choir runs very deep in our family life," Brown added).
Their daughter Kate also sings and plays violin, and their son Tem plays cello.
Contra Costa Children's Chorus students meet once a week for two hours, with advanced singers meeting twice a week. Students range in age from 6-16, with a special MetroGnomes group for ages 4-6. New student auditions take place Sept. 3. For more information, go to www.childrenschorus.org.