Frequently Asked Questions

What is the Shenandoah Valley Children’s Choir?

We are a nationally acclaimed children’s choir program based in Harrisonburg, Virginia, now in our 18th year of providing young people from throughout the area with quality performance, music education, touring and recording opportunities. Our program includes over 200 children in three auditioned performing choirs and three non-auditioned early elementary classes. Click here for a more detailed overview of the classes, here for a more detailed overview of the performing choirs, or here for more on our history.

Do we have to live in Harrisonburg to participate in SVCC?

No. Although our rehearsals are held in Harrisonburg, our singers have come from as far away as Charlottesville, Highland County, Shenandoah County, Lexington, VA and Franklin, WV.

What is the background of SVCC singers?

• Our singers come from public schools, private schools, and homeschools.
• They come from a variety of social, economic, and cultural/ethnic backgrounds.
• Some of our singers come with a lot of musical experience and training outside of SVCC;
others come with no experience or training at all.

What is the solfege program?

Through training in music reading, score study, music theory, aural skills, and performance SVCC trains children to be artistic, independent musicians and excellent performers. Click here to find out more about our music reading, aural skills, and music theory program.

How old must a child be to participate in SVCC?

Most children join us for the first time between the ages of 6 and 12.

  • Our auditioned performing choirs are for children in 3rd-12th grade. Click here to find out more about Concert Choir performance highlights.
  • Our Explorers program is for children in 1st, 2nd, and 3rd grade, with kindergarteners accepted with instructor permission (based mainly on whether the child has had some structured experiences such as preschool.)

Why choose this choir over other activities?

  • Choral singing offers a complete educational growth experience that challenges, develops, and rewards the body, mind, and spirit. It builds self-esteem, teaches discipline, demands commitment, and fosters community and teamwork.
  • Unlike many other activities, singing is likely to continue as a rewarding, lifelong pleasure.

Does my child need private voice lessons?

Many choristers are anxious to study voice privately. It is the recommendation of SVCC instructors that students wait until at least the 10th grade to study voice privately, and that parents and students are extremely discerning in selecting a voice teacher. SVCC staff and many school music teachers are concerned that students are taking voice lessons much too early, and that advanced techniques and sometimes even poor techniques that might damage the voice are being taught to young singers. Private voice study can be a wonderful thing, but only at the right age and with the right teacher.

Should my child also study an instrument?

Absolutely yes! A child that studies an instrument privately (piano, winds, strings) with a reputable teacher will be able to read music at a younger age and know the basics such as counting, reading the staff, and the discipline of regular practice. Instrumental music study is a wonderful complement to singing and will only be a benefit to the child’s total music education.
Those who study an instrument have a “leg up” over those who don’t.

How is this choir different from a school or church choir?

SVCC is not intended to replace school or church choirs. The purposes of SVCC and these other valuable choral experiences are different. We encourage all SVCC choristers to maintain membership in school and/or church choirs.

We are able to sing a more challenging and varied repertoire than is found in a typical school or church children’s or youth choir because our singers are auditioned and because they have sought out the kind of rigor and commitment that SVCC involves. We are known for singing great music of all styles and historic periods including classical and contemporary songs, folk songs of many cultures, newly-composed works, and sacred and secular songs with emphasis on love peace, and friendship.

We hope that all SVCC members are advocates for their school and church music programs and directors.

Will my child understand what to do and feel confident?

Our directors are skilled at developing confidence in our choristers. If your child is new to the Choir, it is normal to feel a little lost for a while. Trust us; the routines, responsibilities, and skills will all start to come together after a few weeks.

SVCC expectations, schedules, calendars, and routines are very clearly laid out, and choir-home and home-choir communication is a priority. SVCC staff and experienced choristers are always happy to help new choristers and parents.

The choir provides practice CDs including all repertoire as well as both CDs and DVDs to help with solfege and rhythm reading practice.

How does my child join SVCC?

Acceptance by audition into the SVCC performing choirs is based on interest, commitment, enthusiasm, and musical ability. Children entering grades 3-8 who love to sing, can match pitch, and have positive, cooperative attitudes are invited to audition.

Auditioned Choirs: Prospective choristers for the auditioned choirs must have a recommendation from a school or private music teacher (please call if this is a difficulty) and must have attended an SVCC concert prior to audition. Contact Judy Leaman at 432-4650 or svcc@emu.edu.

Young Children’s Classes: If your child is entering kindergarten through 3rd grade and wants an active, game-oriented, non-performing experience, contact Explorers manager, Yvette Peake at Yvette.Peake@emu.edu.

What happens in an audition?

SVCC staff work hard to make the audition a positive, fun learning experience. The audition is very short and most children are surprised when it is over! Children do not need to prepare anything ahead of time. The songs “Happy Birthday” and “Row, Row, Row Your Boat” are usually sung, and echo and clapping games are usually played. Most children say “Is that all?” after the 3-5 minute meeting.

What is the cost and do you offer financial assistance?

Tuition varies from choir to choir as follows. Payment may be made in full or in 2 installments. Financial assistance is available for those who qualify.
• Concert Choir: $791 per year plus tour expenses (Choristers are encouraged to fundraise independently and earn all or part of their tour expenses. Most tours are mandatory but the most expensive tours are not — although we strongly encourage all choristers to participate in every tour. Tours may range in price from $200 – $3,000)
• Treble Choir: $693 per year
• Preparatory Choir: $623 per year
• Explorers: $280 per year

Can my child try it once and then decide?

Our choristers, parents, and alumni report that the development of a sense of commitment is one of the most valuable outcomes of SVCC membership. We encourage potential choristers to find out about what SVCC membership will be like before auditioning. This is why we require auditionees to have attended a concert, and why we invite children to observe several rehearsals prior to auditioning.

Choristers in our auditioned choirs commit to an entire year in the choir for the following reasons:
• A year is the bare minimum needed to decide whether this activity is one a child wants to continue (and we strongly recommend that choristers give it at least 2 years. We find that the second year is often when choristers really feel at home and love the choir.)
• Our choice of repertoire, performance commitments, and budget are all based on the numbers we have in each choir at the beginning of the school year. Dropping out of choir mid-year lets down the other choristers and the directors.

What is the refund policy?

Choir deposits are non-refundable, and payment of the full year tuition is required if a child chooses to drop out during the choir year.

What is the time commitment?

• The Concert Choir rehearses for 1 hour and 45 minutes on Mondays. This choir performs at Fall Concert, Christmas Concerts, Spring Concerts, and also does several travel performances each year. Concert choristers are expected to practice 20-30 minutes 4 times per week outside of rehearsal. This includes about 5 minutes of practice on music reading activities.

• The Treble rehearses for 1 hour and 15 minutes on Mondays and performs at the Fall Concert, 2 Christmas concerts, 2 spring concerts, and occasionally 1 or 2 additional concerts or outreach performances. Treble Choristers are expected to practice 10-15 minutes at least 4 times per week in addition to Choir rehearsals. This includes about 5 minutes of practice on music reading activities.

• The Preparatory Choir rehearses for 1 hour and 15 minutes on 1 afternoon each week and performs at 2 Christmas concerts, 2 spring concerts, and occasionally 1 or 2 additional concerts or outreach performances. Prep Choristers are expected to practice 10-15 minutes at least 4 times per week in addition to Choir rehearsals. This includes about 5 minutes of practice on music reading activities.

• Explorers classes meet for 40 minutes once a week for 10 weeks each semester on a Monday or Tuesday. Children are asked to complete a short, fun puzzle-like “homework” assignment each week and to arrive 5-10 minutes early to class each week to have this homework checked and to have some individual attention from Mrs. Anderson or an assistant.

Where does SVCC rehearse?

The auditioned choirs rehearse in Martin Chapel in the Seminary building at Eastern Mennonite University in Harrisonburg, VA. Explorers classes meet in the same building, some in Martin Chapel and some in a classroom there.

What responsibilities do parents have?

SVCC parents play a vital role in the success of their choristers and in the life of the Choir. Responsibilities vary with chorister age.
• All parents are expected to read the guidelines, weekly notes, and other communication thoroughly. (We also expect choristers to be responsible for reading all communication.)
• All parents are responsible for chorister promptness. We are committed to beginning all rehearsals, classes, and performances on time. This means that choristers must arrive 5-10 minutes early in order to be seated or on risers and ready when rehearsal or performance warm-up begins.
• All parents in auditioned choirs are responsible for seeing that their choristers are uniformed for performances according to guidelines. This includes hair and other appearance issues. Click here for hair guidelines.
• All parents are asked to encourage hard work and a positive, cooperative attitude in their choristers.
• Concert Choir parents should monitor practice and check occasionally to make sure that music is learned solidly. Weekly homework/practice sheets are filled out by choristers and signed by parents.
• Treble Choir parents often help with practice, and are also expected to monitor practice and check to make sure music is learned solidly, even when choristers are practicing independently. Weekly homework/practice sheets are filled out by choristers and signed by parents.
• Prep Choir parents usually help with daily practice at least at first, and are expected to make sure that effective practice is happening and that music is learned solidly. Weekly homework/practice sheets are filled out by choristers and signed by parents.
• Explorers parents often help with the short homework assignment and many stay to observe classes. (Parents with other children in tow are asked to take them out if they become a distraction.)
• Each choir has several parent assistants with additional and important responsibilities.

Should we attend a rehearsal or concert before joining to see if we like it?

Yes! Parents, prospective choristers, and friends and family are always welcome to observe SVCC rehearsals and classes. We love having visitors. We do ask that all observers (including any little children) be completely quiet. Our rehearsals and classes move quickly and it is important that our choristers and directors not be distracted.

Attending a concert is required before auditioning for the choir. We want the child/family to be happy in the SVCC, and we hope there is a good “fit” between the child and the organization.

What are the students learning?

Music: Artistry, expressiveness, tuning, rhythmic accuracy, music reading, aural skills, music theory, score reading
Language skills: poetry and language skills in English, pronunciation and vocabulary in many languages, diction coaching from experts and special language coaches
Cultural awareness: awareness of and information about many cultures through songs, choreography, and geography
Self-esteem growth: teamwork, discipline, respect, self-confidence
Etiquette: manners and graciousness, commitment, ability to focus, how to make friends from other backgrounds, how to greet complete strangers and carry on a conversation
Listening skills: ability to follow directions, improved memory, ability to apply previously learned musical concepts to a new piece of music

What happens if my son’s voice changes?

We encourage boys to continue singing through the voice change. Many boys retain their high register while adding the lower one(s). SVCC often includes boys in the choir whose voices have changed but who are still able to sing in the treble range. If your son’s voice begins to change we will listen to him frequently and help him to maintain his high notes, if possible, while his low voice develops. (Continued use of his head tones will not slow or inhibit the development of your son’s low voice.)

My question isn’t listed here. How can I find out more information?
Call the SVCC office at 540-432-4650.