Charlotte Children’s Choir’s former artistic director starting new group

06/27/2014 9:24 PM

06/27/2014 9:37 PM

The former artistic director for Charlotte Children’s Choir is assembling a new youth choir that she says has already been invited to perform at Carnegie Hall in New York next year.

Sandy Holland, who resigned last month after 23 years with Charlotte Children’s Choir, has held two auditions and plans four more to identify 120 vocalists for her group, Young Voices of the Carolinas.

Performing in New York won’t be new to Holland, who has led the Charlotte youth choir in performances with the Charlotte Symphony and at venues nationally and abroad, such as the White House and St. Peter’s Basilica.

The latest invitation came from Holland’s longtime friend, Martha Shaw, who will be guest conductor for a collegiate choral festival at Carnegie Hall in February.

Holland has known Shaw since 1991 when they took a class together at the Choral Music Experience Institute in Chicago. When Shaw called, “I told her I wasn’t with the Children’s Choir anymore,” Holland said. “And she said ‘Bring anybody you are working with.’ ”

Holland, who graduated from Pfeiffer University in North Carolina and got her master’s degree in music education from Indiana University, said she’ll turn 50 in August and decided it was “now or never” to start her own group. “There are more than enough children in this town for everybody to do what they want to do,” she said.

Holland said she plans to stretch herself by adding choreography to the performances. “Not what you’d call a show choir,” she said, “but taking a medley from a Broadway show and staging it with minimal props and costumes. It’s something I’ve seen very fine choirs do, really being innovative, not just getting up and standing on risers and getting down.”

Holland’s resignation from her first job out of grad school stirred controversy. She said she decided to leave because the board of the 29-year-old nonprofit was taking a “new direction with a social mission and outreach.” Although she planned to step down June 30, she said the board asked her to resign immediately upon learning she was leaving.

Board Chair Nikki Emanuel Jarrell declined to speak about the board’s decision. “Sandy was a tremendous asset to our organization,” Jarrell said. “We’re definitely sorry and sad that she has decided she wanted to resign.”

Jarrell said the board’s direction is the same: “We are still focused on artistic excellence in choral arts education.” But Jarrell said the board is looking for ways to reach more diverse groups of children and talked about starting a tuition-free program in low-income neighborhoods.

Holland’s three new choirs will be: Nova Voices for beginners from second to sixth grades, Concert Voices for advanced boys and girls from fifth to ninth grades, and Bel Canto Voices for advanced high school girls. Tuition is $475-$575 per year.

Auditions are July 12 and 22 and Aug. 5 and 9 at St. John’s Baptist Church, 300 Hawthorne Lane. For appointments: 704-526-7667.

Staff writer Fred Clasen-Kelly contributed.

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