From the Director


Managing Fall Schedule Stress – better to take a breather than a break

We know the fall semester can feel overwhelming, particularly if your child has started a new school, is preparing for test prep, school or college admissions, or has moved to a new level at Brooklyn Youth Chorus. First, remember, you are not alone, we understand the immense amount of pressure on kids to keep up at school and to deal with the admissions process while balancing extracurricular activities. And second, we are here to help!

Singing as Stress Relief
Choral singing can be a wonderful refresher for kids. The experience of breathing more deeply and listening to one’s internal body rhythms – plus the pure joy of making sound and connecting with others – is a wonderful counterpoint to the stress of academic life. In fact, research shows that positive adaptive coping strategies for stress can include engaging in music or exercise, as well as planning ahead and maintaining a balanced perspective on school and grades. Chorus should be a joy and a release.

Take A Breather
Most importantly, if your child is showing signs of stress, try to reassure them that they will be okay and remember you can use your discretionary absence points as a pressure release valve when you need it. If it’s a particularly overwhelming day or week, use an absence point to stay home and study or attend to another priority. We strongly encourage kids to take things day by day and just take a breather when and where they need it rather than dropping out of Chorus for an extended period. In our experience, once kids withdraw, it is much harder to resume the routine. You should also remember the importance of getting enough sleep and staying hydrated. Everything feels more overwhelming when you are overtired.

Please keep in touch with your program managers so they are aware of how your child is doing, and let them know when you need to use an absence to catch your breath. That’s what they are here for!  Just be mindful of the point allowance so you don’t exceed your allotment for the semester.

We are excited about the year ahead and are here to help you get through the term in the happiest and healthiest way possible.


Brooklyn Youth Chorus students learn with our trademarked Cross-Choral Training Method – What is that all about?

Brooklyn Youth Chorus offers incredible performance opportunities supported by its unique trademarked training method, Cross-Choral Training developed by our Founder, Dianne Berkun Menaker, over the Chorus’s 25-year history. Choristers engage in a developmentally appropriate course of study including both rigorous voice training and the development of music literacy skills.

Rooted in Physiology
As vocal pedagogy, C-CT is functional voice training, informed by voice science, and based on what is happening physiologically inside the body. In many voice studios, training is approached largely through imagery. Students are asked to imagine sounds as colors or textures or to send them out through various parts of their faces or bodies. This subjective approach doesn’t work for everybody, leaving many students failing to progress. Functional voice training helps students gain awareness and understanding of the physical systems that make up their singing voice – their breathing (respiration), what happens in the larynx and the vocal folds (the actual source of the tone), and how the shape of the vocal tract forms recognizable sounds, colors, and tone quality.

Vocal Qualities for Varied Vocal Styles
If you are familiar with the sound of both a classical opera singer and a Broadway or pop singer, you understand that these styles have distinctly different vocal qualities. In fact, each style requires a very different series of adjustments in the vocal instrument. Cross-Choral Training asks our singers to develop all of these qualities, establishing several default productions, both for the benefit of extending technique, and so our singers sound stylistically appropriate in each style of music. This approach develops the widest pitch range – high and low, and the broadest spectrum of tone qualities.

Cross-Choral Training is grounded in classical training, but also includes those adjustments necessary for commercial music styles. Classical singing technique is furthest away from natural speech production (vowel sound shaping, laryngeal registration) and requires enhanced acoustic amplification of sound, uniformity of vowel production, and strong development of head register (lighter mechanism or mode), which is often underdeveloped in beginning singers. While commercial singing more closely parallels natural speech, it also requires training and development for the singer to have control over variable vocal qualities, expressive nuances, and to negotiate a wider pitch range.

The Importance of Music Literacy
As a musicianship pedagogy, Cross-Choral Training places students in a language-immersive, experiential learning environment right from their start in the Preparatory division. Students learn tonal solfege (Do-Re-Mi, the ABCs of music) to reinforce pitch relationships and intervals both melodically and harmonically. They learn to read and count rhythms and to apply elements of music theory in understanding their music repertoire.

The Full Package
Cross-Choral Training is the underpinning of all of our teaching at Brooklyn Youth Chorus.  Our broad approach to vocal training is why Brooklyn Youth Chorus is hired to sing with both the New York Philharmonic and Elton John, and sounds amazing in each setting. The focus on musical literacy and musicianship is what gives our singers the ability to pick up a score and start singing, to learn music quickly and securely, and to allow the Chorus the opportunity to collaborate with major orchestras and artists.  And perhaps most of all, this pedagogy is critical for maintaining vocal health, allowing our singers to have a long and happy life of music making ahead of them.