Contra Costa: New Children’s Chorus director
By Sally Hogarty, Correspondent
POSTED: 08/13/2014 10:45:55 AM PDT
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 have spent part of August 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 Lafayette-based 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 June or July of 2015 and an international tour for the summer of 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 discovered the thrill of 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 to 16, with a special MetroGnomes group for 4- to 6-year-olds. New student auditions take place on Sept. 3; for more information, go to www.childrenschorus.org.Read More
Monday June 30
We had our final concert last night at this beautiful estate, the Victoria Ocampo Museum, near Martín’s childhood neighborhood. There were lots of friends and family there to watch and listen – very poignant.
Victoria Ocampo was an Argentinean writer, very ahead of her time, a feminist, a forward-thinker and great supporter of the arts. We sang outdoors at her mansion (yes, it got a little chilly in the end) but we made up for it with the warmth of our sound.
It was great to get to meet some of Martín’s St Patrick’s School Buenos Aires alumns! They had sung Elgar The Snow and Take Me Home, Country Roads 23 years ago under Martín’s direction!!!
Today we are packing, getting ready for our last day in Argentina. We have a river cruise, a farewell lunch and final shopping to look forward to, then on to the airport and home.
We have had a wonderful tour – beautiful weather, beautiful cities, warm and welcoming people, and lots of great music! A trip we will all remember. Thank you parents for enabling your children to experience this fabulous exchange of music and culture!!!
Wednesday, June 25th
Thursday, June 26th
Today we stopped for a choir exchange in Santo Tome. Such a warm welcome, a live interview with the local TV station, and fabulous music. They sang two beautiful songs; then we performed, then we joined together to sing Elgar’s “The Snow.”
The choirs were exchanging emails, and very reluctant to part. It was such a highlight where we least expected. They were so warm, and welcoming and talented. A heartwarming experience. Tonight we are in Buenos Aires, and tomorrow we visit the Estancia Ranch for a look at gaucho life.