Vocal Area Network logo VAN Feature

The Young New Yorkers' Chorus: A Choir to Inspire
by Adithya Raghunathan for Vocal Area Network
Posted November 18, 2002

Nathan DavisEvery year thousands of young people come to New York City seeking their future. Many come primarily to fulfill their career aspirations. But they also come for the other things that New York has to offer: a diverse learning environment, a challenging pace and a vibrant cultural life. Nathan Davis, a young conductor who recently moved here too, wanted to help young adults participate in that cultural life and make a difference with music. Having observed a serious shortage of musical organizations for young people, Davis founded the Young New Yorkers' Chorus (YNYC), a chamber choir for amateur, student and professional musicians ages 20 to 30 living in New York City. Since its creation in early 2001, YNYC has been steadily growing and will offer its fourth concert program at 8 PM on Saturday, November 23rd at the Church of the Holy Trinity, 213 West 82nd Street.

Despite YNYC's steady growth, Davis wasn't always sure he was on the right track. New York's cultural bounty can, ironically, make it difficult for a new group to establish itself. His concerns: Could choral music really make a difference in the New York community? Could the younger generation create a new brand of choir, both inspiring in artistic vision and satisfying socially? If given the chance, would young professionals escape Manhattan's rat race and overcome Gen-X apathy to join in making music?

Yes, yes and yes, as the success of the Young New Yorkers' Chorus has demonstrated.

The primary purpose of the choir is to enrich the lives of the young adult community by performing music. The heart of performance, Davis stresses, is the alignment of the vocalist's personal musical expression with the group's collective artistic goals. A recent graduate of Westminster Choir College and a professional singer himself, Davis has a passion for teaching amateur and professional singers to become better artists. His vocal experience enables him to anticipate the feeling, tone color, or oral sensation necessary to achieve a particular artistic ideal. YNYC warm-ups tend to be engaging, intense and sometimes silly, focusing on seemingly abstract patterns that unexpectedly improve the collective sound. Because singers must often convey messages from a bygone era, Davis takes great pains to educate the singers about the circumstances of the composition and the story behind the words. YNYC aims to inspire a deep appreciation of the music in its audience by combining a commitment to the meaning and inherent beauty of music with an evolving choral synergy.

YNYC's repertoire is categorized (loosely) as “eclectic classical,” with works ranging from the Renaissance to contemporary to some dabblings in vocal jazz. The upcoming November 23rd concert, for example, features Renaissance works by Victoria, modern works by Duruflé, Tavener and Pärt, and a set of American folk-song arrangements. YNYC supports young composers as well. The concert will feature a work by Chris Mueller, a professional jazz pianist who is also a baritone in the choir. Mueller debuted as a composer with a setting of “The Tyger,” a powerful poem by William Blake, at YNYC's spring concert.

But the group is not only about music. One of the founding goals of the organization is to foster community among young people. YNYC has done that among the members of the choir. The ensemble draws its membership from a diverse cross section of young New Yorkers, representing business, academics, the arts and the non-profit sector. Despite this diversity, members find it easy to bond around a youthful vigor and a common passion for the arts. Concerts and rehearsals often end in dinners or drinks, allowing the singers to take a break from their busy schedules and get to know their peers.

Generosity is integral to the group, too. After all, Davis notes, each singer has volunteered considerable time and energy in the name of musical expression. YNYC envisions broadening this spirit of generosity to help the greater New York community. YNYC plans to expand its performances to hospitals, shelters and homes for the elderly in an effort to bring hope to those who need it most. In addition, YNYC aspires to foster music-making among youth in the community by sponsoring young composers competitions, collaborating with local high schools and featuring young composers' works in upcoming concerts.

Davis believes that young people singing together provide hope and optimism for our future. In his experiences singing with Westminster's choirs, he found that audience members were won over by youth's contagious inspiration. “And a place like New York,” says he, “is in dire need of inspiration. Young people live day to day, going from hard work to hard play, often neglecting their need for expression. New York purports to be a cultural Mecca, but how can it support creative artistry without encouraging its youth to pause and contemplate?” Davis contends that supporting artistic expression in youth has an even greater effect than simply stoking artistic innovation. YNYC was founded not to be “just another choir” but to give young people a place to sing, a community to be a part of, and a chance to give New York a voice of inspiration.

To learn more about the Young New Yorkers' Chorus, visit www.youngnewyorkerschorus.org or e-mail info@youngnewyorkerschorus.org.

Adithya Raghunathan, tenor, has been singing Western classical music since he was a teenager, first with high school madrigals and later with the Princeton University Chapel Choir. He's sung with The Young New Yorkers' Chorus for the past year. He is also an avid fan and amateur student of Carnatic (South Indian classical) music and jazz. Adithya currently works in financial technology for JWM Partners, a hedge fund in Greenwich, CT, although he lives in midtown Manhattan.

Content Contact: Adithya Ragjunathan
Revision Date: January 11, 2011.
Technical Contact: Steve Friedman.

 Vocal Area Network logo