For the last two years, choir students at Franklin Middle School in northwest suburban Wheaton have worked together with those at Adlai E Stevenson, a preK–8 school on Chicago’s South Side, to perform a joint concert. And this year, they’ll make it three in a row.
“When we sing a song together, we form a common bond,” said Crystal Forbes, a 30-year veteran teacher at Franklin, which is part of Unit School District 200. “The two choirs realize they have a great deal of common ground, by which they are able to connect and produce something beautiful to give back to others.”
In December, that beautiful something they’ll give to others is a series of two performances at the DuPage Convalescent Center in Wheaton and at the Windsor Park retirement community in Carol Stream.
“Any time students are able to collaborate, the benefits are plentiful,” Ms Forbes said. “Being part of a large group allows students to work towards a common goal, integrating shared knowledge with new perspectives, and strengthening bonds with others by implementing social-emotional competencies.”
Christina Brown is the music teacher at Stevenson, where students got together for the first time on October 28. That meeting, after a few ice-breaker activities, was also the first rehearsal, where students sung some holiday songs and learned they have a lot in common with each other.
“Our goal was to give our students a chance to meet and work with other students from different cultural and socioeconomic backgrounds using music as the vehicle,” Ms Brown said. “Many of the students in my school are from low-income families and don’t have many opportunities to travel outside their communities. This collaboration has allowed students to broaden their vision of the world, make new friends and learn the importance of giving back to your community.”
She added that students have even returned to Stevenson from their high schools, wanting to take the trip out to DuPage County. “We’re doing our share to help them become the kind and caring citizens of our future,” she said. “It also allows students to expand their musical learning and experiences.”
Part of that expansion of learning comes from the international flavor Ms Brown gives to the choir. They sing songs not only in English but also in French, German, Spanish, Swahili, Arabic, Hindustani, Lebanese, Chinese, Swiss German, and Dutch. They’re currently working on a song in American Sign Language.
Franklin Assistant Principal Joe Kish is very supportive of the initiative.
“This partnership offers students a chance to use the gift of music to expand their horizons and make a positive difference in the lives of others,” he said.