Erynne Smith readies the Chautauqua Elementary School choir for an upcoming concert (Tami Brockway Joyce Photo).

Erynne Smith readies the Chautauqua Elementary School choir for an upcoming concert (Tami Brockway Joyce Photo).

Music programs for youth turn up the volume

Vashon youth will make a joyful noise in choral and band concerts next week, in anticipation of new opportunities coming up for music-making island kids in 2019.

Bands are big and busy

The fun will start at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 11, when two bursting-at-the-seams McMurray Middle School bands take the stage in the school’s common room.

The sixth-grade band alone totals almost 60 kids, said Karen Boyle, a parent who is active in VIBES, a booster organization for Vashon’s school district bands. The seventh- and eighth-grade band is also large, she said, with almost 40 kids taking part.

The VHS band, which has almost doubled in size in the past year to be almost 40 members strong, will perform its own holiday concert at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 13, in the VHS auditorium.

Both nights of concerts are free and open to the public.

According to Boyle, the bands are thriving under the leadership of Dan Baker, now in his fourth year as director of the band programs at VHS and McMurray.

“He’s like the energizer bunny,” said Boyle, noting that Baker also started a new middle school jazz band. “The kids are super excited about making music.”

This September, the VHS band participated in Band Day at Husky Stadium — an event that drew 3,000 young people to the University of Washington to perform at the halftime of the UW vs. Arizona State football game. And currently, band members are out and about in town, hosting bake sales and firewood sales to raise funds for a school trip to San Francisco, where they will take part in workshops and perform in schools. McMurray’s band, not to be outdone, has a performance coming on Dec. 14 at Seattle Center’s Winterfest.

Kids gotta sing

Two choirs from Chautauqua Elementary School and McMurray Middle School will perform at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 12, on the McMurray Middle School stage.

The Orca Choir, made up of third to fifth-graders at Chautauqua, and the McMurray Chorale, comprised of sixth to eighth-graders, have been rehearsing on Wednesdays after school since September, under the direction of Erynne Smith.

The choir programs — spearheaded by Vashon Choral Boosters, a new group that has received support from several island organizations, businesses and individual donors — are offered for free to all students who are interested. This year is the second for the after-school program, and participation has swelled to almost 50 children in the Orca Choir and 30 in the McMurray Chorale.

The theme for the McMurray Chorale’s repertoire this term is “Broadway,” and songs from shows that have recently come to Seattle or are coming in the near future will be featured, including the musical “Hamilton.”

In January, the Vashon Choral Boosters will launch a new program, the Vashon Youth Chorus. This program will also have two choirs, with one for singers in grades four to six and another for singers in grades seven to 12. Rehearsals will take place at 5:30 p.m. on Tuesdays at Vashon’s Presbyterian Church, and this program, like the after-school choirs at the schools, will be free and open to all kids. The new choirs will have a public performance in April.

Julie Kangas, Chautauqua’s assistant principal, who is also an accomplished professional choral performer and holds degrees in music from Pacific Lutheran University and Boston University, will be the artistic director of the choirs.

“She is a wonderful choral educator,” said Holly Boaz, a local soprano and voice teacher who is active in Vashon Choral Boosters. She also said the new choir is not meant to replace the program in the schools, which will continue.

“We want [the programs] to complement and support each other,” she said.

For its inaugural season, the Vashon Youth Chorus will tackle a repertoire that ranges from an Estonian folk song to Civil Rights ballads, and sing in languages including French, Hebrew and Swahili.

“They’ll learn a lot about music, singing, teamwork and community, but through the music, they will also explore social justice, immigration, the struggle for equality, and respect for all cultures and creatures of the world,” said Boaz.

For more information, contact Boaz at

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