The Nathaniel Dett Youth Chorale
The Nathaniel Dett Chorale, with generous assistance from The Bennett Family Foundation of Toronto, TD Bank Financial Group and the Ontario Trillium Foundation, and in cooperation with the Toronto District School Board (TDSB), has founded a training choir for Toronto-area high school students of African Heritage. Currently in its fourth year, the Youth Chorale provides students of African heritage with training in choral and vocal technique, music theory and Afrocentric history. Singers are chosen based on their musical abilities and their potential to benefit from the experience of working in a professional musical environment with Artistic Director Dr. Brainerd Blyden-Taylor and the 21 members of The Nathaniel Dett Chorale.
The students rehearse regularly under the direction of Conductor and Chorale member Floydd Ricketts, and have the opportunity to perform with, and to be mentored by, the members of the professional Chorale. The Chorale also works with the Toronto District School Board (TDSB) to provide opportunities for the Youth Chorale members to act as mentors and role models themselves within their own schools.
The Nathaniel Dett Chorale is Canada’s first professional choir dedicated to the performance of Afrocentric music of all genres, has a history of community-building with and among young people, providing them with deeply contextualized choral singing and strong role models. Choral singing has the potential to build vibrant and healthy communities because it requires that its participants focus on a common goal, strive collectively, cooperate with their peers and their leader, and listen carefully to one another. A training choir for young people requires that its more skilled members support those who are still developing their skills. The leader of our educational initiatives, Dr. Brainerd Blyden-Taylor, encourages all participants to continually improve their performance by raising the bar ever higher. Brainerd and the other leaders of the Youth Chorale program cultivate professionalism in the participants, opening the possibility of moving up into the ranks of the professional Chorale, and to a career in music.
The Chorale adds another dimension to all of its activities by creating a cultural and historical context for its music. All of the Chorale’s concerts and outreach initiatives include an educational element, and our conductor and singers draw audiences together by increasing their knowledge of Afrocentric music and culture, with the aim of fostering pride in those of African heritage, and informed admiration in those of other cultural backgrounds. The Chorale builds vibrant and healthy communities by uniting its audiences in a love of Afrocentric choral music, and by creating a deeply-contextualized understanding of the complex roots of this music.
The Chorale aims with its Youth Chorale program to encourage students of African heritage to pursue higher education in classical music, where persons of African heritage are currently under-represented.