It’s hard to find a child who is not moved in some way by music. As we parents are well aware, music appreciation starts early in our kids. As this article reminds us, music helps lower heart rates in infants and encourage deeper sleep, as well as helping older children (and adults) develop new pathways in the brain, build knowledge and positively impact our emotions.
Someone who knows the power of music full well is Sam Parrott, the new Artistic Director of the Austin Children’s Choir. Sam spent the past three years as the Music Specialist at Brooke Elementary School here in Austin. After receiving his degree in Music Studies, he is now pursuing a masters degree in Choral Conducting from Texas State University. We had the chance to ask him a few questions about the Austin Children’s Choir, what he likes about Austin and how kids can get involved.
LiveMom: When did your passion for music begin?
Samuel: My passion for music began in high school when I was the Drum Major of the San Marcos Rattler Band. I never fully realized what it was like to be part of an ensemble until I was standing in front of one hearing everything together. My excitement for music only grew when I went to Texas State University to pursue a degree in Music Education. I discovered how much I enjoyed teaching music to others while I was student teaching in New Braunfels. I got to share my excitement for music and found the students getting more and more excited about learning.
LiveMom: When did you join the Austin Children’s Choir? What does the job of Artistic Director entail?
Samuel: I joined the Austin Children’s Choir in July after deciding to finish my master’s degree full time. The Artistic Director’s job has a very broad range of duties, but the largest ones include programming the music for the year, leading rehearsals, assisting in the recruitment for the ensemble, and planning performances for the future.
LiveMom: How does a child join? Can he or she join year-round? What is the time commitment to join?
Samuel: Children join the Austin Children’s Choir by filling out an interest form online to let us know that you wish to be in, and then by coming to a rehearsal. Students ages 6-18 are eligible to join the chorus. We accept students year-round, but we look to have most members be in attendance from the beginning of the semester in order to participate in the concerts for that semester. The time commitment is two hours a week of rehearsal at one of our locations, some outside practice at home utilizing recordings, and next semester we will begin work on music theory and reading both at our rehearsals and at home.
LiveMom: What do you like most about Austin?
Samuel: I have always enjoyed Austin for its cultural diversity and support for the arts.
LiveMom: What do you wish you could change, if you could?
Samuel: There isn’t much that I could see changing about this city. It has evolved and changed so much since I was a kid living in San Marcos, so I’m always excited to see the new things popping up around Austin.
LiveMom: Outside of the Choir, what other Austin performers or music venues do you enjoy?
Samuel: I have mostly attended classical performances in Austin to see traveling Broadway performances and those presented by the Austin Symphony Orchestra, Ballet Austin, and Austin Lyric Opera. I have gone to a couple of concerts at Stubbs and the Austin Music Hall and look forward to exploring more of Austin’s live music scene as I wrap up my time in college.
LiveMom: When is your next performance?
Samuel: Our first performance of the year will be on December 16th at the First Presbyterian Church on Mesa Drive at 6:30p.m. The performance, entitled “Postcards: Stories of the Season” will feature holiday and winter music from around the world in five different languages. The suggested donation is $10, and door prizes will be raffled ($2/ticket, 3 tickets/$5) to help fund scholarships and operating costs for the spring.
LiveMom: What are you gearing up for next?
Samuel: We are currently preparing for a large recruitment season to bring in more local singers to become part of the Austin Children’s Choir. The spring is already shaping up to be an exciting and busy time with performances for the Austin Toros, the George Washington Carver Museum and Cultural Arts Center, and a May performance presenting folk and story songs.
LiveMom: What else do you think our readers should know about the Choir?
Samuel: The Austin Children’s Choir will be celebrating its 30th anniversary beginning in the spring. This group was formed to give children of Austin a chance to express themselves through choral music, and we continue to uphold the ideals of the founder, Dr. Bernard Gastler, by providing the opportunity for any child to be part of a choral ensemble. We also provide tuition assistance for many different circumstances and have opportunities for children to earn scholarships for students nominated by teachers in the Austin area who display outstanding attitude, passion, and musical skills.