Voice of Chicago shapes character, worldview of U-High students

Founded in 1956, Chicago Children’s Choir became an instant voice in the city’s civil rights movement. 62 years later, several U-High students sing with the Voice of Chicago, CCC’s most advanced ensemble.

According to its website, CCC has taught over 50,000 students throughout its history. With tuition adjusted based on family income, some attending free of charge, the organization serves children and teens from across the socio-economic spectrum.

With sweat-inducing choreography, international tours, and performances with Beyoncé, the Voice of Chicago admits a passionate group of teenage singers, driven by their mission statement to “inspire and change lives through music.” 

Isha Singh, Soprano 1:

With late night rehearsals, missed school, and less time for rock climbing, joining Voice of Chicago comes with sacrifices. However, for senior Isha Singh, the confidence performing instills made the commitment worthwhile.

Isha Singh

United by a common love of music, Isha said, VOC’s strong sense of purpose helps to coax shy-yet-dedicated young musicians out of their shells.

“I’ve always loved performing, but I think I was very shy about really allowing myself to express how how passionate I was, until I came to choir. At choir, you learn how valuable expression is,” Isha said.

She noted that this culture of enthusiasm is pervasive, building strong relationships among members.

Isha said, “Choir is a place where I’m surrounded by people who are just as passionate about music as I am. I think that’s very rare.”

Kepler Boonstra, Baritone

For Kepler, a junior, the choir owes much of it’s sucess to the enthusiasm it encourages. Through exhausting rehearsals and busy performance schedules, he said, members maintain a positive attitude.

Kepler Boonstra

The exhausting rehearsals and long performances, Kepler said, aren’t always easy to endure. However, the infectious energy of his fellow singers keeps everyone going strong.

“Everybody there wants to do well. We work really hard, we practice, and we always get it done, ” he said.

Like Isha, he said this culture is infectious, uniting it’s members through a mutual love of performance.

Kepler said, “It’s kind of amazing that there are so many like-minded and driven people.” 

Dania Baig, Alto: 

For Dania, a senior, Voice of Chicago emphasizes responsibility. At rehearsals, she met teens of different racial, religious, and socio-economic backgrounds, a far cry from her suburban upbringing. From there, she heard stories of discrimination, activism and hope, and she realized the world was more complicated than she once believed.

“I was very much sheltered. I thought the world was much better than it actually is,” Dania said.

Disillusioned yet empowered, she began her activism, finding her voice first in song, then in writing. She started her blog, Libertea, in the wake of the 2016 election, to encourage others to join her in allyship. Through her first article “Who speaks for Muslims,” she expressed frustration at the discrimination her community faces.

Dania Baig

“I was feeling very frustrated and almost surprised about how little people chose to advocate for others,” Dania said.

However, in her next article “Who do Muslims speak for,” she turned her activism inward, encouraging Muslims to speak out against homophobia and transphobia within their own communities.

Dania said, “There’s a lot of encouragement to use privilege for good. I’ve learned that acknowledging it is a big step.”