Children's Programs of the Chorus

Andrew Howell, Music Director • Genvieve Spitale, Director of Education

The Chorus of Westerly

Through its multi-generational approach to making music (involving singers ages 8 and up, alongside adults of all ages), the Chorus of Westerly's educational program is multi-faceted. The Chorus continues to invest heavily in an expansion of its education programming for both its singing membership and the general public. 

The Children's Program within the Chorus is a multi-tiered after school program at Kent Hall. The Chorus offers numerous programs for youth from infants to age 18 that center around both performance and music education. We believe in providing an inclusive program that provides rich cultural experiences that contribute to a thriving community, as well as aiding children in acquiring knowledge and skills for independent musicianship that will serve them throughout their lives.

Prior musical training, voice lessons, music classes, or any musical background is NOT required for children and teenagers to become involved in the Chorus of Westerly. We do not expect nor require children joining our program to have extensive music experience. It is our task and joy to train your child and teach them!


How does joining a Chorus of Westerly program work for a child/teen?

For children 8 years and older, the process typically follows this path:

Step 1 – The parent/caregiver sets up an appointment through the Chorus office (call 401.596.8663) for a very informal audition for your child with our music director, Andrew Howell. The word audition might sound scary, but it should not be - we just need to meet your child and assess what level they should be placed in upon joining. In this meeting, Andrew will also talk through rehearsal schedules, expectations, and additional programs available to your child. The parent or caregiver is expected to attend the meeting with their child. 

Step 2 – After the first meeting and audition your child will be placed at his or her level, and they will begin rehearsing and learning! 

The levels your child could be placed in are:

Level 1 - Training Choristers
This level is for the newest and youngest singers in the Chorus of Westerly, generally ages 8 to 10 years. The level is designed to teach the emergent singer music fundamentals, provide and allow for healthy vocal development, and prepare them to sing advanced choral music. The training choristers work both with music director Andrew Howell and director of education, Genviéve-Ashley Spitale in a carefully planned structure. Child singers in this program stay for a length of time determined by the music director. Training Choristers sing in a variety of performances throughout the season including on both Christmas Pops and Summer Pops. 

Level 2 – Junior Choristers
This program first served as a secondary and more advanced level of training choir, and now generally includes children with demonstrable basic music skills of ages 8 through 12 years. Musicianship skills and vocal training continues in this level with Andrew Howell and Genviéve-Ashley Spitale and is the final step before a singer joins the Full Choristers. Junior Choristers also sing in a variety of performances throughout the season including both Christmas Pops and Summer Pops. Junior Choristers get the chance to audition to see if they are ready to sing the large classical concerts as well.

Level 3 – Full Choristers
This level includes children who have passed an audition and/or have been singing with the ensemble for a period of time sufficient to the music director's assessment, or new children who come into the program with very strong singing ability and musical skills. Full Choristers commit to an extra hour of rehearsal time with Andrew Howell each week. Full Choristers sing with the adult singers on every performance in the symphonic season and are members (musically) of equal rank. Young men whose voices have changed sing with the adult singers on Tuesday evenings.

Chorus Summer Camp

All children and teenagers of the Chorus of Westerly who are 8 or older are eligible to attend our annual Children's Chorus Camp held each August. This overnight camp is held at the Episcopal Conference Center in Pascoag, RI. This camp provides our children with a variety of music making and community building activities and experiences that positively contribute to their development. Activities include different musical rehearsals and workshops as well as other activities, such as swimming, tennis, crafts, and more!


Musicianship Instruction in Rehearsals at all Levels
Special musicianship instruction, offered by Genviéve-Ashley Spitale, is embedded in the rehearsal schedules of all levels of choristers during the academic year (and also during the camp week). The children at the various levels are instructed differently, but the fundamental goal remains the same.

Young children learn through play and demonstrate music understanding through moving, singing, and when ready, reading and manipulating (e.g., writing, reordering, categorizing) iconic representations of sound. Children develop their musicianship through a continued “ear” and “voice” approach—aural/oral. Music understanding progresses from active listening, moving, and singing to reading and writing symbolic representations of sound including standard notation, tonic solfage, and Curwen hand signs. Adult learners require a specialized approach, whereby musicianship skills are approached abstractly (using symbolic and theoretical resources) and concretely (using sound to sight processes). Materials used for teaching musicianship are drawn from folk and composed music. 

Early Childhood Program - Little Voices         
A pre-chorister program first offered in 2013, our Little Voices Program serves our youngest musicians, ages 0 through 6 years. Music is a key feature of early childhood, and children are natural music makers who delight in the musical world around them. In this class, young musicians experience a variety of music activities designed just for them! Children sing, move expressively, create, and play instruments. While building a repertoire of songs for everyday living, children will acquire music skills and knowledge that will enrich their lives far into the future.  In addition to acquiring early music literacy skills, making music enhances children’s understanding of their world, aids in language development, and contributes to their social and emotional well-being.

Early Childhood Music classes are offered each semester in 6-week programs. Please visit Little Voices for more information.