The Voices of Unity Youth Choir announced plans Thursday to sing in two major events next year — the 2014 Choirs of America Music Performance Nationals at Carnegie Hall in New York and the World Choir Games in Riga, Latvia.
The announcement at Sweetwater also started the public phase of the Gold for the City fundraising campaign, which seeks to raise $385,000 to pay for the choir's trips. Sweetwater President Chuck Surack has donated $50,000.
“The opportunity is far beyond singing,” however, said Marshall White, founder and director of the award-winning choral group.
Voices of Unity members will meet people from around the country and world. They will learn and experience history. They also will develop personal confidence that will follow them into the classroom, in their careers and through the rest of their lives, White said.
The experiences also instill members with what White calls “tangible hope” — the belief they can dream big and go after it.
For example, about 180 former choir members have gone on to college, he said. Many have returned to work in Fort Wayne and to contribute to the community.
White also believes the Gold for the City campaign will help boost spirits in the city, which has seen 41 homicides so far this year.
“I want this campaign to raise the pride level and lower the shame level,” he said.
About 80 young people currently participate in the Voice of Unity program, White said. He hopes to take about 50 of the older youth on the trips.
The Choirs of America event takes place June 19-22. They will return home before leaving for the World Choir Games July 9-19 in Riga.
Choir members are responsible for raising a portion of their travel costs to both events, White said. They started their fundraising in August.
The young people also will have the opportunity to participate in a number of fundraising events as a group to help raise money, he said.
In addition, Voices of Unity is seeking corporate, community and individual support to help make the trips a reality.
What really excites White about the New York trip is that Choirs of America invited Voices of Unity to perform and said they will get to perform their own music on stage at Carnegie Hall, one of the world's renowned entertainment venues.
“That will be a historical moment for the kids,” he said.
He also hopes the group can do other performing in New York, such as at the Harlem Children's Zone, a nonprofit organization serving children in the city's Harlem neighborhood, and at Harlem's famous Apollo Theater, where many top African-American entertainers broke into the business.
Before going to both New York and Riga, choir members will study the history and important aspects of the two cities, he said.
White hopes Voices of Unity can expand the opportunity by taking a few non-choir youth with them to Riga. They still are working out details.
In Riga, the choir will try to repeat its success during the past two World Choir Games.
Voices of Unity won a gold medal in the Popular Choral Music category at the 2012 games in Cincinnati. They won a gold medal in the same category at the 2010 games in Shaoxing, China, where they also won a gold medal and world champion status in the Gospel and Spiritual Music category.