In tune with youth

The young Cayman Youth Choir is being fine-tuned by its new director, Arek Nicholson, and the committee that oversees it under the auspices of the Cayman Arts Festival.

The year-old choir was started as a way of making music and the arts accessible to youth and to prepare them to one day perform on the world stage, says Arek, who was tapped for the helm in April.

“One of the goals is to make this accessible to kids of all ages, backgrounds and interests,” he says, adding that the free choir encourages participation by youths from all areas of the island.

Another goal of the choir is “to develop kids’ appreciation of and exposure to different kinds of music,” he says. “We want to push them to realise their potential as singers and musicians.”

Right now the age range of the 30 or so members is six to 16, and that seems pretty manageable to Arek, a music teacher at his alma mater, John Gray High School, and a member of the Cayman National Choir.

In the role of choir director, Arek schedules and runs rehearsals, chooses the repertoire – no easy feat – and works with the committee on the best ways to recruit new members.

“Picking the repertoire can be difficult,” Arek acknowledges, particularly as there is limited sourcing on island. What’s a director to do sometimes but turn to YouTube? That’s what Arek does sometimes.

The youth choir, which was active last year during the Cayman Arts Festival and at Christmas time, also performed this year with the Cayman National Choir and the UCCI Choir as Choirs in Harmony, and in June at the Prospect Playhouse. Speaking of challenging repertoire, the youth choir has admirably performed arrangements of John Rutter’s Requiem, Over the Rainbow inspired by the group Celtic Woman and Defying Gravity from the Broadway show Wicked, among others.

Arek’s vision is to bring in music from, well, everywhere, whether African, classical or other genres. He has an extensive musical background himself, as a singer, sax player and degree holder in music education with a major in voice from the University of Regina in Saskatchewan, Canada. His musical influences include many from the bygone years – Al Green, Frank Sinatra (“You don’t have voices like that anymore”) and the rock and pop classics that his parents listened to when he was growing up.

Once school starts in September, Arek expects to be busier than usual, getting the public schools involved in helping to recruit choir members. There’s value in the discipline of participating in a choir that extends way beyond just showing up and singing, he says.

Discipline is involved, including responsibility, concert etiquette and showing up prepared by having practised outside of rehearsals.

There’s a work ethic involved, too, he notes, as a good choir ultimately shows what “dedication, hard work and good practice can produce.”

For those students who are dedicated and willing to work hard in the choir, the results spill over to their other subjects, he says.

“The whole idea is you build these skills in the choir and they in turn will translate into other areas of your life.”

Interested? Contact [email protected]

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