“No matter where you come from and where you start, singing brings you together in life,” KellyAnn Nelson told me.
Those words are KellyAnn’s passion and her driving force behind her career and her impact. Founder and Artistic Director of the Young Professionals Choral Collective of Cincinnati (with a roster now of about 1000 singers ages 21 to 45), she is also managing artistic director for the Cincinnati Boychoir and has served as a guest conductor, clinician, adjudicator and presenter at various National, All-State and Regional honors choir events, conferences and choral/vocal jazz workshops in Michigan, West Virginia, Ohio, New Jersey, North Carolina, Connecticut, Minnesota, Kentucky and Indiana.
The Cincinnati Boychoir’s annual Sing Me A Story: A Christmas Carol holiday extravaganza is tonight at the Aronoff Center and the more than 200 members will be singing holiday favorites plus new songs destined to be classics.
If you are unfamiliar with the Boychoir, it is a 53 year old organization that has grown to become one of the premiere professional boychoirs in the United States. Hundreds of students from more than 990 different schools come to the Aronoff Center for the Arts each week to prepare beautiful music, make friends, learn, and strengthen character values.
I asked KellyAnn to share how her work with the Cincinnati Boychoir has touched and inspired her.
In Her Own Words…
I have the privilege of watching these boys grow from squirrelly new singers into talented “big brothers”. I’m also able to craft experiences for them that allow them to work with incredible talent, travel to see incredible places and perform on incredible stages.
Most importantly, they get to see the power of music in action. They get to shake the hand of a nursing home resident whose eyes fill with tears as they listen to “Deck the Halls” and remember Christmases past. They get to sing “Carol of the Bells” for a few thousand people in the heart of downtown and watch the littlest kids stop running around for a moment to pretend like they are ringing their own bells. And they get to take music that they’ve been perfecting for months out into the community at large and share it. Our youngest humans learn to give and create happiness by sharing what they can – not money and gifts, but intangibles like songs and smiles.
At the Cincinnati Boychoir, we run every program decision through three lenses.
- Does the opportunity allow the boys to engage in their community?
- Does the opportunity allow the boys to grow as humans?
- Does the opportunity allow the boys to travel – either figuratively or literally?
This summer our Ambassadors are headed to South Africa, and this February our DeltaChor and JourneyMen hop on a bus for Philadelphia. But all of our boys travel – be it to a school gymnasium where they can show other boys that it’s “cool” to sing, show emotion and have fun, or to the stage of Music Hall with the Cincinnati Opera – because music lets you go places in time, in your city, or in the world like nothing else can.
My boys sing well. But I’m most proud when they sing Happy Birthday to an overtired friend in the choir, or smile at their neighbor as that chord they’ve worked on for so long finally locks. Our boys help each other, make friends who don’t live in their own neighborhood, and become great citizens who look out for each other while looking outward toward other people they meet at concerts, on trips or in rehearsals. I’m so proud of them. But I get a little emotional at this time of year when they are singing – a lot. It’s powerful to seem them realizing the power of sharing music with others.
Lucy May of WCPO tells the poignant stories of poverty, courage, determination, love, passion, diversity, and kindness. Every day people who collectively make up this place we call Greater Cincinnati. This week I am asking people to talk about an experience that has changed their life.
Lucy told me about one very special teacher, without whom, Lucy said, she may never have discovered her love for storytelling.
In Lucy’s Words
“When I was a junior in high school, my French teacher, Jacque VanHouten, started a conversation with me about college. I knew I wanted to go to college, but I hadn’t thought much about it. I told her that I liked to write, and she told me I should study journalism. Then she told me two or three places where I should apply to journalism school. Then she even took an Amtrak train with me to go visit the school that she thought would be best for me.
My parents were divorced, and my dad lived out of town. It never would have occurred to me to ask my mom to take time off work and leave my younger sister to go visit a college campus with me. But Mrs. VanHouten thought it was important so we went. And it was amazing. I fell in love with the campus, and we found out during the visit that I had been accepted. (Because Mrs. VanHouten marched me to the admissions office and demanded to know the status of my application after I told her how much I loved the school.)
I ended up going to that college. It’s where I learned the craft of journalism, and it’s where I met my husband. So much of what is important to me in my life might never have happened if it weren’t for Mrs. VanHouten and the fact that she cared enough to have that conversation with me. I remain forever grateful to her, and she will always hold a special place in my heart.”
I have been sharing different perspectives on Kindness this week. Today I want to share the story of someone on the receiving end of kindness. Beth Crenshaw is vice chair of the Spina Bifida Coalition of Cincinnati, Inc., and she wants to remind us that kindness can have a great impact. In her words:
“I was in the hospital quite a bit last year due to medical problems. I have Spina Bifida. During my stay at the hospital, two friends came to visit me. One of them brought my fiancé, Chuck, BBQ for dinner. She brought so much that Chuck had BBQ for several nights in a row, when he left the hospital for the night.
After I left the hospital, I had follow up appointment with the two doctors that conducted the two surgeries. My friend picked me up at my home and took me to the doctors appointments.
My friends were the sunshine in my darkest hour. My friends are considerate, caring, and generous. In my opinion, this is the definition of kindness.”
LOCAL 12, WKRC-TV’s John R. Lomax is loved my Greater Cincinnati. He has such a benevolent heart. He is as genuine as they come. John shared with me his thoughts on #kindness.
“I believe kindness is knowing someone is in pain or distress, taking time to figure out what that pain or distress is, and doing what you can to lighten that darkness. Kindness is a gift, offered whether you know it will be accepted readily or rejected outright, given without expectation of recognition or reciprocation, or requiring some renaissance on the part of the recipient. Kindness, in my mind, is doing what we should as a thinking, feeling human being.”
What does #kindness mean to you? To Robin Klaene,
“Kindness to me is always being there, in good times and in bad. My friend Eydie Bookman is the kindest person I know. She is always giving of herself and her time. We have been friends for over 25 years and have been through fun times and trying times. She is always someone who will listen with compassion and offer a funny story when you need it. I am always amazed at what she does for others and how appreciative she is when people do things for her. I feel blessed to be a part of her world.”
What a beautiful gift of friendship!