Gwinnett Young Singers, Atlanta Youth Choir merge

Gwinnett is home to two of the finest children's choirs in the region, the Atlanta Youth Choir and the Gwinnett Young Singers. In a recent development, these two nonprofit arts groups decided to merge their organizations into one, creating new opportunities and firming up resources for all.

The two groups will combine as the Gwinnett Young Singers choir effective for the new "season," which begins immediately with the new school year calendar.

Phillip Shoultz, Artistic Director for Atlanta Youth Choir, took the initiative for the merge by contacting Lynn Urda of Gwinnett Young Singers.

"We have been competing for years," he said. "But by combining our choirs, we can lower the cost to each family involved and also offer our young artists additional performance opportunities."

One of the most attractive reasons to come together for the Gwinnett Young Singers was that the Atlanta Youth Choir has a strong, existing men's choir, something that Urda said she would like to develop.

The group will continue to rehearse in the Hudgens Arts Center at Gwinnett Center. Shoultz will serve as Director of Voice Education for Gwinnett Young Singers, and will conduct preparation classes for home-school students for All-State Chorus, Honors Choruses and the ACDA Honors Choruses, Urda said.

That's not all Shoultz has in mind. His dream is to have the premiere young men's choir in the Southeast. His first-year goal is to form a Gwinnett Young Men's Ensemble of singers ages 12 (or when the voice begins to change) to 25. Next year, the ensemble could evolve into two groups, a younger group of "changing voices" and an older group of voices that have already changed.

Shoultz also has dreams of developing "satellite choirs" in each of Gwinnett's school clusters. These would not be school choirs, but community choirs that could offer young singers the opportunity to participate. Many of these children would be financially unable to do so otherwise.

"This would be our community service component," Shoultz said. "We would seek funding for these satellite choruses, enabling us to reach many students. Those who were interested and met requirements might eventually be channeled into the Gwinnett Young Singers. It would offer opportunity to those who sought it. Chicago and New York City already do this. Perhaps it's time for Gwinnett to do the same."

The Gwinnett Young Singers have been successfully singing with the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra for years, participating in holiday and special recordings with the orchestra. They were nominated for a Grammy for their participation in the 2002 recording with the ASO of "Carmina Burana."

The Atlanta Youth Choir provided the chorus for the Atlanta Ballet's "Nutcracker" snow scene until 2006. Last year, they moved closer to home and sang this portion of the score along with the Gwinnett Ballet Theatre's production of "The Nutcracker," accompanied by the professional Gwinnett Ballet Theatre Orchestra.

For more information about this exciting development, or to learn more about these organizations, visit www.gwinnettyoungsingers.com and www.atlantayouthchoir.org.

E-mail Holley Calmes at hcalmes@mindspring.com.