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Voice’s of Unity Youth Choir chosen to represent in “Choir Olympics”

Group hopes to compete in China this summer; starts fundraising efforts

By Jim Fester

Fort Wayne Reader


Fort Wayne’s Voices of Unity Youth Choir is headed to China to represent the city, state, and nation in the 2010 World Choir Games this July.

Marshall White, choir director and founder of the Unity Performing Arts Foundation (UPAF) said they were extremely honored and humbled to be the U.S. representative for the choir games. “To be invited to participate in this global event is an amazing opportunity for these young people.”

Held this year in Shaoxing, China, the World Choir Games is the largest choir competition in the world and is considered the "Olympics" for singing groups across the globe. Over 400 choirs from more than 90 countries will be represented in this year’s competition to be held July 15 through July 26. Voices of Unity is the only choir from Indiana, and one of four from the United States.

The games began in Linz, Austria in 2000 and have been hosted every two years since, with over 5,000 choirs participating in total. Past hosts include Germany, Austria, and China, and in 2012 it will, for the first time, be hosted on American soil in Cincinnati, Ohio.

The Voices of Unity Youth Choir, (VOU) is a soulful choral group under the umbrella of the Unity Performing Arts Foundation, a community-based multi-faceted performing arts organization. The organization says its artistic focus is to shape and develop natural talent and expose students to musical art forms that are mainstream but not taught in many public schools, universities or community performing arts programs. Founder Marshall White began the organization in 2000, and cites a commitment to building character, shaping talents, and providing young people with life skills that will equip them with the necessary tools to be successful adults.

“The dream of UPAF is to make the arts accessible to young urban and suburban students who do not have a cultural background in the predominantly western European arts genres,” says a statement by the organization. “It is a dream that can lead to many good things: the creation of happier, more productive young citizens, the promotion of excellence in underappreciated art forms, and the promotion of harmony among all the members of our community.”.

Among UPAF and VOU’s accomplishments are performances with artists such as Heather Headley, Roberta Flack, The Fort Wayne Philharmonic, and Josh Groban. In 2007 they performed with R&B singer Keyshia Cole at the nationally televised NFL Kick-Off Celebration for the Indianapolis Colts. The choir has also performed for several of the Indianapolis Colts events including the opening of the Lucas Oil Stadium in 2008.

They also were named one of the top 50 arts and humanities-based programs in the country serving youth beyond school hours. The recognition was announced as part of the 2009 Coming Up Taller Awards, bestowed by the President's Committee on the Arts and the Humanities, the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities.

In 2001, UPAF was granted an official company-in-residence status by IPFW.

Of course, getting 70 choir members to China — plus the band, plus chaperones — requires funding. It’s estimated the trip would cost about $7,000 per person. White said he hopes to begin fundraising efforts soon, and is also exploring corporate sponsorships. All in all, he would like to raise $1 million, some of which will cover promotional opportunities after the choir returns.

Community support will be an essential component of transforming the Voices of Unity Choir’s status as invited participant to actual participant in the Choir Olympics and otherwise driving the “Dreams of Gold Project.”

For more information and to learn how you can help, visit the group’s site at www.upaf.com

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