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Meet Sean Carney and the San Fernando Valley Youth Chorus

Today we’d like to introduce you to Sean Carney and the San Fernando Valley Youth Chorus.

Sean, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
I am the artistic director of the San Fernando Valley Youth Chorus. This is my 3rd year working with the SFVYC. It’s been an incredible journey, and this year has been the most interesting to say the least! Since I came on board as director, I’ve seen major growth in the chorus in both the number of students enrolled and the level of musicianship of the students. It’s been very rewarding to watch this growth.

We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
This year, the SFVYC was off to an amazing start, with our biggest enrollment numbers in years and invitations to perform in a few choral festivals all over LA. The students and I were excited for these opportunities and spent months preparing to showcase our best work in years. Unfortunately, the COVID-19 outbreak started and group gatherings, especially among kids, were stopped immediately. This was a huge disappointment for us, but I was determined to come up with a way to continue the great work we had done and give the students an opportunity to present the songs they’ve been working on.

Inspired by choral composer Eric Whitacre’s “virtual choir” project. I gave very specific instructions to my choristers on how to record themselves at home. In about a week, I was overwhelmed with the amount of videos I received and how hard the students tried to make the project a success. Determined to make this work, I watched as many YouTube videos as I could on how to create a virtual choir of my own using video and audio editing software.

Somehow, we managed to pull it off! The response from the community was huge and everyone wanted more. I was receiving calls and emails from all over the country of people wanting to do the same thing with their choirs. Choral music has had a major impact on my life as a musician and individual, and I am happy to help communities figure out how to keep choristers engaged.

The first song we decided to record was an original song I wrote with my wife, Katie Clarke, called “Sing For Tomorrow.” We thought it was an appropriate fit for the times, considering the uncertainty and fear that some are experiencing currently. The song encourages the listener to “keep the music alive” by lifting your community with inspiring and positive thoughts.  Here is the link to the SFVYC singing “Sing for Tomorrow.” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fSD9fY1pwdE

COVID-19 has been a major challenge for people in all walks of life, but through this experience, I’ve learned that with a little bit of ingenuity and hard work, any challenge can be overcome.

Please tell us about San Fernando Valley Youth Chorus.
The SFVYC is a safe place for students age 4 to 18 to explore the art and practices of choral singing while promoting social integration and holding them to a high standard of singing. We have three levels that rehearse at different times, Kinder Choir, Concert Choir and Melodia Leviosa. Kinder Choir focuses on the fundamentals of music and movement and is led by Marla Lowrey. Concert Choir is comprised of students in 2nd to 5th grade and focuses on ensemble singing and introduces the concept of harmony. Melodia Leviosa is middle and high school students who are ready for the challenge of singing more intermediate choral literature, with a strong focus on part singing and performance.

The San Fernando Valley Youth Chorus will be accepting new singers into our virtual rehearsals beginning in July.  It could be awhile before we get back to traditional rehearsals.  Until then, I encourage everyone to follow the Chorus on social media and visit our website for updates and news.

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