Lifting the children through music

Roanoke Valley Children’s Choir bolsters belief in young talent
Northside High School junior Caleb Kaines plays percussion with Roanoke Valley Children’s Choir performing holiday favorites during a concert at Salem Football Stadium, November 21, 2021. – Photo by Shawn Nowlin

by Shawn Nowlin

In 1987, Kimberly Ruse Davidson launched the Roanoke Valley Children’s Choir. Before the organization grew into one of the most highly respected throughout Virginia, Davidson had to start from scratch.

Thirty-five years ago, she spoke at nearly every local elementary school she could to gather up as many singers as possible. Reminiscing about those early days, she said, “We started with 23 young singers between the ages of eight and ten.”

Today, the choir includes 130 children from 65 different schools throughout the Roanoke Valley and surrounding communities. The choristers, who are between the ages of 7 and 18, are chosen through an audition process and are divided into three Training Choirs and a Concert Choir.

As the program’s artistic and administrative director, Davidson is responsible for planning all the programs, including auditions, concerts, special performances and collaborations, choir festival planning, audition for honor performances, select repertoire, budget and calendar reservations, to name a few.

Most people, said Davidson, don’t understand what a pre-professional Community Youth Choir is. She continued, “This is the training ground for excellence in singing, teaching children the basics and then the details of diction, posture, sight-singing, tone quality, breath support and artistic expression. Because of our expertise in singing, the RVCC is able to offer our singers opportunities to sing locally with the Roanoke Symphony Orchestra and Opera Roanoke.”

Over the years, choral singing has brought numerous honor performance opportunities for the choir, including four solo performances at Carnegie Hall, four featured choir performances at the American Choral Directors Association Regional and National Conventions as well as solo and festival performances in England, Hawaii, Canada and many cities in the United States. This year, a new choir “The Little Singers,” taught by Kristi Davidson, has been added for children between the ages of four and six.

On December 4, the RVCC will be offering a class for second through fifth graders who are interested in joining the choir. “Singing in a pandemic has been extra challenging and although we have worked extremely hard to offer the highest quality of excellence in singing combined with safety, our choir numbers have dropped nearly in half. We are on the upswing and are excited to rebuild the choir as quickly as we can,” Davidson said.

Approximately 130 singers took center stage on November 21 as the Roanoke Valley Children’s Choir performed a concert at the Salem Football Stadium by singing holiday favorites and nutcracker themed songs.

“Our choristers sang beautifully and remembered all the details we’ve been working on. Congratulations to the amazing team of dancers from Southwest Virginia Ballet, led by the kind, talented and motivational Mr. Pedro Szalay. They danced so beautifully,” Davidson said. “The Roanoke Chamber Brass is a pure delight to make music with. “What an exciting and beautiful day to have months of planning and practicing come together!”

Davidson says she has worked with an innumerable amount of talented musicians and artists over the years en route to making countless memories she’ll remember for the rest of her life. When people discuss the Roanoke Valley Children’s Choir, she hopes what comes to mind is their integrity, professionalism and work ethic.

For more information about the RVCC, visit childrenschoir.com.

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