DENHAM SPRINGS — After 24 years, the Livingston Parish Children’s Choirs is keeping its programs alive by teaching proper music techniques.
While the choirs — the Apprentice, the Chorus and the Chorale — accept children from surrounding parishes, Barbara Walker, daughter of founder Regina Walker, said she “wanted Livingston Parish connected with this entity. This is a very cultural place. It’s not just about baseball and football.”
Barbara Walker, who also teaches the Talented Music program to Livingston Parish students in the Watson area, said her goal is to prepare students “for their dreams.”
Some students who have performed with the choir have stayed in Livingston Parish, while others have performed at Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center and on Broadway, she said.
“We’ve got kids all over the (United States) because of their training, and that makes me happy,” Barbara Walker said.
Sarah Rushing, who performed with the Parish Children’s Choirs several years ago, said the program created the much-needed foundation for her to advance to Ithaca College in New York, where she is working on her master’s degree in music. The senior is a master pianist who plans to pursue her doctorate degree following graduation in May.
“It gave me a really great foundation,” Rushing said of the choir program. “It solidified a lot of what I was learning.”
The business of singing has been kept in the family since its inception, but Barbara Walker said it’s become a community effort as more sponsors have stepped in to help over the years.
She said she hopes that when she’s too old to teach the children, someone else, a former student or other family member, steps in to take the reins.
“They have to be able to shift (genres) and learn the basics, basics of breathing,” she said. “From there, they can find their own specialty of music.”
Barbara Walker teaches the youngsters songs from music classics from the 1700s to modern pop. She said the variety of genres helps the students exercise their voices. “We try to teach them that music isn’t just one (kind),” she said.
“She introduces them to all styles, then they can choose what they want to sing,” playwright Dinah Toups said.
Although Regina Walker stepped down as the organization’s main teacher a few years ago, she still conducts the concerts, most recently the Winter Concert in December.
The choirs, started by Regina Walker with about 40 children, has now grown to more than 125 and, at times, has touted more than 150 members.
Nevertheless, the organization still faces challenges, Barbara Walker said. While it hosts two major fundraisers each year — a play and an annual spring program — and several small ones, the students don’t have a permanent home to practice or perform and have made area churches their temporary home, Barbara Walker said.
In addition to raising more than $9,000 through grants from the Arts Council of Greater Baton Rouge and The New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Foundation, the group has brought in more than $10,000 during its annual fundraisers and also receives donations from residents and businesses, Barbara Walker said.
The money is added to the organization’s $80,000 operational budget to keep the program going and to help students who may not be able to afford the tuition.
“We have never turned away a child,” Barbara Walker said, adding that the Livingston Parish Children’s Choirs offers scholarships to children in need. “We want this available to everyone who wants to participate.”
Spring registration has begun for all three choirs, including the Apprentice Choir, for students in kindergarten through third grade; the Chorus, for children in grades three through nine; and the Chorale, the audition-only choir open to students in fourth through 12th grades, Barbara Walker said. While rehearsals will begin Jan. 13, the last day to join is Jan. 27.
The Children’s Choirs will host Winter Camp scheduled Jan. 5-8. The Apprentice Choir will rehearse from 4:30 p.m. to 5:45 p.m. Tuesdays, while the Chorus will rehearse from 6 p.m. to 7:15 p.m. Tuesdays. Both choirs will rehearse at New Covenant Church, 215 Florida Ave. Southeast, Denham Springs. Registration forms are due Saturday, Jan. 3, and are available online at www.LPCCsing.org. For information, send an email to Barbara Walker at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This year’s performance of “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the ’60s” is scheduled March 20-21 at North Park in Denham Springs, Toups said. The cast includes area notables like former Mayor Jimmy Durbin, former Denham Springs City Councilman Arthur Perkins and Regina Walker, to name a few. The production focuses on a widow who inherits a radio station but must change with the times, Toups said.
To learn about the Livingston Parish Children’s Choirs, visit www.lpccsing.org.