Local Town Pages - Lelia Tenreyro-Viana believes there’s a power to music.
Director of the Charles River Children’s Chorale, a Metrowest Community Program for children aged 6-10, in Kindergarten through 5th grade, Tenreyro-Viana says that, as music has created the strongest friendships in her own life, so she sees it creating strong bonds in the young children she directs.
“It’s the power of music, the experiences, and working for a goal, for the concert. It’s studying from nothing, from learning a new song, to making it sound amazing,” she says, of her group that performs each Christmas and each spring with the Charles River Chorale. What she sees happening with the children mirrors her own life. “The memories and the relationships, and all of the powerful experiences in my childhood through music have stayed with me.”
“This chorale has brought my children opportunities to sing in a community, be a part of a community,” says Millis resident Meaghan Quilop, a member of the Charles River Chorale who, along with her husband Greg, founded the Charles River Children’s Chorale to offer children a developmentally appropriate setting in which to learn how to sing in a group. “It is important to have that connection to our peers, and music is such a beautiful way to forge that connection. Over the past four years, I have seen incredibly shy children come and lift their voices in song and just shine from the inside.”
“One student has autism, and the difference the musical training has been on her is unbelievable. She went from being super shy in the beginning to being able to sing a solo and focus, make eye contact and all the things that are really challenging,” says Tenreyro-Viana. The children explore their world through music, she says.
Partly, it’s exploring other cultures and singing in other languages as a way to learn new traditions,” says the chorale director, whose own lifetime of music experience began when she was just 7-years-old singing in the national chorus of her native country, Argentina. A piano teacher and the music director of St. Cecilia’s Church in Ashland, Tenreyro-Viana (now an American citizen) also served as teacher-in-residence for the “Choral Music Initiative,” a program sponsored by the Metropolitan Opera Guild and the New York Foundation for the Arts, and she sings year-round with the Tanglewood Festival Chorus, which accompanies the Boston Symphony Orchestra.
“If we sing in Hebrew, we might talk about the Shabbat; if we sing in Japanese, we might talk about the cherry blossom, says Lelia. “So, there’s a little touch on other cultures. I want them to learn things they might not learn in school, give them another perspective.”
Learning to sing with other students also develops confidence and the ability to listen, says Tenreyro-Viana, who is accompanied by pianist Everard Huggan.
“My daughter just loves to sing, and since she started going to chorus her confidence level has jumped and she really enjoys performing on stage as well,” says Danielle Rossi, of Millis.
Nancy Muscatello’s daughter, aged 10, has participated in the children’s chorale for three years. Not only has her confidence grown, says Muscatello, but “it’s a nice way for her to creatively express herself.” With a lot of local youth-focused programs revolving around sports, says Muscatello, the children’s chorale ended up being a good outlet for her more artistically-and musically-oriented child.
Tenreyro-Viana, who says she finds teaching both centering and exhilarating, does so with an affectionate and gentle discipline.
“We have a way of listening to each other,” she says, “to listen to how each member is contributing and we all contribute to one big sound. There’s a lot of empathy and compassion that generates from honoring each other’s voices. I think all of those things somehow impact their home life and hopefully their school life, too.”
Although the group is currently small, the children learn to project their voices. Lelia says she can only imagine how wonderful more children’s voices would sound. Although her small group “sang their heart out, all completely enjoying the music they were making” at the last Christmas concert, she envisions assembling a group of 60 or so children from local communities.
“The sound that you can create with more voices is amazing. There’s something so powerful about children’s voices. If we can create a solid group, we can do a lot of service music, bring it to elderly people who are lonely, sing for worthy fundraising causes. I tell the children that by making music, we are making peace. The vibration of music is a connection to the vibration of the universe. Our mission is to share our gift with other people to connect with that joy.”
Although the season just began in mid-January, it’s not too late for your child to sign up for the Charles River Children’s Chorale, offered through the Millis Recreation Department at (508) 376-7050. The cost for the 16-week program, offered Thursdays from 3:45-5 p.m. at the Veterans Memorial Building in Millis, is $150.