Frequently Asked Questions

Children and Youth Chior FAQs

How will my child benefit from singing in Columbia Choirs?

Short term :  Your child will have fun singing a variety of music, making new friends from throughout the region and getting to be creative on a weekly basis.

Long term : We offer a sense of accomplishment and personal growth opportunities through singing music from around the world. Singing has benefits you will see in your child short term, but the most profound benefits are long term.  Your child will have experience in having a more positive attitude (focusing on solutions instead of simply identifying the problem), dedication to completing tasks in the most proficient way possible, accepting responsibility for one’s actions, expecting the best from oneself, realistic self-evaluation with a more positive attitude about how to improve, experience in looking for faster ways of learning things, being part of a team to accomplish a goal, self-expression and sensitivity to others, heightened ability to concentrate. All of these and more are what this level of music study and the Columbia Choirs style of instruction brings to your child.

Music is a language and singing is an art.  Singing and musicianship at this international quality level are life skills which require the same kind of commitment your child experienced when learning how to read words.  Your child will take “baby steps” at first.  Please be patient and encourage your child to have patience while developing the skills which will bring even more enjoyment in the choir. With more experience and developed knowledge comes the more enjoyable activities of recording CDs, singing for a variety public and private events, for professional sports teams, and on concert tours domestic and foreign.

Your child will sing many wonderful songs and gain musical knowledge.  We will do our best to see that this commitment is as convenient as possible.  We know the choir is one of many opportunities you make possible for your child.  However, occasionally the outstanding, world-class opportunities we offer may mean some temporary inconveniences and sacrifices. As your child progresses in the choir, we believe you will agree the commitment is worth it because you will see the difference in your child. We will do our best to keep you informed about choir activities in advance to assist you in planning your family’s schedule.

How do I know if my child has talent in music and singing?

A series of questions will help you answer this question. Have others mentioned they have a nice voice? Has your child’s music teacher encouraged you to contact us? Even though they may not sing around the house all the time, when they do – is it in tune? Have they been after you to check into membership in this or any other choir? If you answered yes to one or more of the above questions, it would be a good idea to schedule an appointment (no charge) to evaluate your child’s talent for singing. All we require is ability to carry a tune; most children can carry a tune.

Is voice training at a young age healthy for my child?

Yes! The training we give through a choir setting actually protects a child’s voice. While private voice on a continuous basis should not begin until 9th or 10th grade, group vocal training (choir) is perfectly fine. In fun ways we teach and remind the children about proper posture, breathing and excellent tone at every rehearsal.

The training we provide simply enhances your child’s ability to sing correctly; to learn how to project the voice and make it sound more vital without the potential of damaging it with improper use. The method we use is called “Bel Canto” (Italian for beautiful singing). We help the child release the beauty and joy of their voice so the child and audience can more fully enjoy the message of a song.

Is this a church-related choir?

No. It is a non-sectarian, region-wide community-based choir. We have rehearsed in churches of several denominations (over the years) because churches have facilities suited to our space needs, at a reasonable price. The geographic center of membership is the Kirkland/Redmond/Sammamish area. Columbia Choirs is not affiliated with any school districts or churches.

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

Columbia Choirs is a select choir.  Because we are a select choir we can offer your singers the highest-quality training and performance experiences.  We are a resource to enhance a singer’s enjoyment of music and singing they participate in elsewhere. Columbia Choirs’ provides high international quality training (vocal and musicianship) and a consistently proven tradition of excellence in performance. Because of those things we are able to sing a more challenging and varied repertoire of songs than one would find in the typical school or church children’s choir.  Because of the training received in Columbia Choirs, our members have sung with Seattle Opera (as children), and are prized singers/leaders in their Junior High, High School, College, Community and Church Choirs.  Every year we have current and former members who have been selected for All-State, All-Region choirs and have represented their school, school district and region in All-State voice competition. Many are music majors in college, most simply have singing and music as part of their lives long beyond their Columbia Choir years.

Who works with the children?

The music staff is made up of highly skilled and experienced professional, university-trained music educators who have been hand-picked by our Founder-Artistic Director for their teaching ability. They are adept at inspiring and encouraging singers while insisting upon high standards of behavior. Visit the Conductors and Staff page for more detailed information on all of our music staff.

We have heard from parents repeatedly that the choir is a source of welcome release and source of friendships for a child who may be going through some turbulent times in school or elsewhere.  The Columbia rehearsal may be the positive end to a horrible day or the much anticipated highlight of the child’s week.

What is the audition like?

It is positive, fun and quick and may be over before the child realizes it. Prospective members can sing a one of the following songs: “America the Beautiful,” “My Country ’tis of Thee” and/or “Happy Birthday.” If your child doesn’t know those songs, another familiar song would be acceptable. We know you and your child are eager to know the results. At the conclusion of the audition, paperwork will be handed out “on the spot” to inform you of your child’s choir level placement. In the event your child doesn’t pass (90%+ do pass!), the staff conducting the audition will thank them for coming to sing; telling what they can do to prepare for other opportunities to audition for the choir. Visit the Audition Information page for further details about the audition requirements for each choir level.

What’s required for acceptance?  Is everyone accepted?

Any boy or girl in kindergarten and up is eligible. The group for preschool and kindergarten is a non-auditioned group. For first and second graders and up ability to carry a tune with a pleasant, undamaged, unchanged singing voice is required. No experience is required to enter the beginning levels of the choir. NOTE: If a child wishes to enter Bel Canto or Cantabile, music experience and ability to read music is required. A child with private piano study or is in band or orchestra may qualify for higher initial placement. Advance placement is not assured, but is considered on an individual basis.

How much does it cost?  Is financial assistance available?

Visit our Tuition Information page for our current tuition levels for each choir.  Financial Aid is available by written application. Assistance is awarded based upon need and extenuating circumstances are taken into consideration.

Where do you rehearse?

At your child’s audition you will receive a verbal and/or written notice giving your child’s choir assignment and when rehearsals will begin for you.  That assignment will determine the location and the cost of your child’s instruction.  All of our Children and Youth Choirs rehearse on Education Hill in Redmond.

How often and where do you perform? Other activities?

Prima, Melodia, Harmonia, Ragazzi and Lyrica present a two “Informances” per year for parents, grandparents and friends, and sing in retirement homes in East King County, North King County and South Snohomish County.  These performances are within regular rehearsal days and times, whenever possible.  Children in Melodia and above levels will sing on our annual YuleFest concert in December and in the SpringSong concert in Spring.  As your child advances into our Bel Canto and Cantabile levels, they will perform on stages around the world and with professional orchestras, on radio & television, for sporting events, make CD recordings, etc.

The major performances by Columbia Choirs are done by the top performing levels of the organization: Bel Canto, Cantabile Vocal Ensemble, Con Brio Women’s Choir and Concord Chamber Choir.  Bel Canto has sung (locally) with Seattle Symphony, Orchestra Seattle, Seattle Chamber Singers, Northwest Chamber Orchestra and for conventions, for weddings, in churches, cathedrals, and retirement homes; for the Mariners, Sonics and Seahawks, on King-FM radio and on the Christmas Ship cruises on Lake Washington. Our members have also appeared with the Seattle Opera, have been selected for All-Northwest and All-State Choirs, and have won Washington State solo and vocal ensemble competitions, etc. Internationally, our concert choirs have concertized in Australia, Canada, Czech Republic, Most of Western Europe, England/Wales, Norway, Russia and Sweden.

Does the choir travel? When?

Bel Canto, Cantabile Vocal Ensemble and our two Adult Choirs do travel regionally, domestically, and internationally to represent our choir and explore other parts of the world.  Concert tours are not required, but heartily encouraged because of their educational value.  The Tours are in the Summer in latter June (after school is out) and into mid-July (usually for 10-14 days) and are arranged by professional concert tour agents. The choirs perform an average of every other day; every other day is pure sightseeing.  Visit our About Us page to view our Concert Tour History and Awards and Honors.

What is my role as a parent? Basics and volunteering!

As a parent your commitment and follow through on your child’s participation is crucial to your child’s successful experience in Columbia Choirs. Parents and choir directors form a team that has a powerful influence on your child.  We know that singing in Columbia Choirs does wonderful things for children.

Columbia Choirs is not designed to be a “let’s try this for a couple of weeks and see how it goes” kind of activity. This is the kind of experience that requires a commitment of time (at least 3 months) to have enough understanding of what is offered your child in fun and personal benefit. It takes at least 3 months for your child to acquire the foundation level of skill which adds to the fun of being in the choir.  At first being in the choir may be mostly your idea and your child is just going along with your desire to provide this experience. Your encouragement and active interest in how it’s going will sustain your child’s involvement until the child’s interest matches or exceeds yours and the activity becomes their own. Be diligent and positive in motivating your child in subtle ways to stick with it. Your child will do their best in the choir as long as it is fun and as long as they sense your unwavering support.

The best time to accurately gauge a child’s feelings/outlook about the choir is on the way home from practices . If you see a pattern of concern, contact your child’s instructor immediately.

I’d like to refer others to the choir. How should I do that?

We welcome your help in spreading the word about what this fine organization does for children and families. Word of mouth is the best way. Invite prospective members and your music teacher to visit our website www.columbiachoirs.org and tell them why your child loves choir.

From time-to-time we will host a Bring a Friend to Choir Day. This is a great time to invite friends to share in the fun and learning experienced during weekly rehearsals.

Will my child have choir homework?

Seldom at the very beginning levels (Melodia); occasionally at the more advanced levels.   Children in most levels of the choir are given music to take home in a Columbia Choirs music carrying case.  We encourage the children to work a few minutes (10 minutes) each day on their music. There will be music memorization deadlines assigned.  Whatever is assigned will be given well in advance and it won’t be much.  We believe school work must come first.

May parents attend rehearsals?

YES!  We welcome parents into rehearsals. You are our honored guests.  It is important for you to see what training your child is receiving in choir to more fully understand and appreciate what s/he is experiencing. The rehearsal rooms are small, but we’ll squeeze in as many as possible.  We will arrange rehearsal seating so the entry doors are behind the choir to prevent undue distractions. The children need to have the best possible atmosphere conducive to focusing on their singing and learning musical skills.  However, please do not bring younger children into the rehearsal room.

Whom do I contact if I have further questions?

When in doubt contact us by e-mail at admin@columbiachoirs.org with any questions or to schedule an audition.  We are happy to answer your questions!