Frequently Asked Questions

What is the choir like?

We teach children a love and enjoyment of music and singing through teaching them how to sing better. They sing the best quality music we can find with text that must meet our high standards of content and message appropriate for children. We sing folk songs and both secular and religious, classical music composed by the masters. We train approximately 200 children per year ranging from kindergarten through freshman in college. There are several choir levels. We are sponsored by Columbia Choirs Association, a non-profit organization.

How do I know if my child has talent in music and singing?

A series of questions will help you answer this question. Have others mentioned s/he has a nice voice? Has your child’s music teacher encouraged you to contact us? Even though s/he may not sing around the house all the time, when s/he does – is it in tune? Has s/he been after you to check into membership in this or any other choir? If you answered yes to one or more of the above questions, it would be a good idea to schedule an appointment (no charge) to evaluate your child’s talent for singing. All we require is ability to carry a tune; most children can carry a tune.

Is voice training at such a young age healthy for my child?

Yes! The training we give through a choir setting actually protects a child’s voice. While private voice on a continuous basis should not begin until 9th or 10th grade, group vocal training (choir) is perfectly fine. In fun ways we teach and remind the children about proper posture, breathing and excellent tone at every rehearsal.

Why train my child’s voice?  Shouldn’t it sound natural?

Yes, your child’s voice should sound natural. The training we provide simply enhances your child’s ability to sing correctly; to learn how to project the voice and make it sound more vital without the potential of damaging it with improper use. The method we use is called “Bel Canto” (Italian for beautiful singing). We help the child release the beauty and joy of his/her voice so the child and audience can more fully enjoy the message of a song.

Is this a church related choir?

No. It is a non-sectarian, region-wide community-based choir. We have rehearsed in churches of several denominations (over the years) because churches have facilities suited to our space needs, in a wholesome atmosphere at a reasonable price. We would love to have our own building some day!  The geographic center of membership is the Kirkland/Redmond area. Columbia Choirs is not affiliated with any school districts or churches.

How is this choir different from a school or church choir?  Can my child have as good an experience in a church or school choir?

Columbia Choirs is a select choir.  Because we are a select choir we can offer your talented singer exceptional training and performance experiences.  We are a resource to enhance your child’s enjoyment of music and singing s/he receives in school or in children’s choir at church. Columbia Choirs’ provides high international quality training (vocal and musicianship) and a consistently proven tradition of excellence in performance. Because of those things we are able to sing a more challenging and varied repertoire of songs than one would find in the typical school or church children’s choir.  Because of the training received in Columbia Choirs, our members have sung with Seattle Opera (as children), and are prized singers/leaders in their Junior High, High School, College, Community and Church Choirs.  Every year we have current and former members who have been selected for All-State, All-Region choirs and have represented their school, school district and region in All-State voice competition. Many are music majors in college, most simply have singing and music as part of their lives long beyond their Columbia Choir years.

Who works with the children? Who do I contact with questions/concerns about my child’s instruction?

The music staff is made up of highly skilled and experienced professional, university-trained music educators who have been hand-picked by our conductor for their teaching ability. They are adept at inspiring and encouraging the children while insisting upon high standards of behavior. Go to the Conductors page for more detailed information on all of our music staff.

Your input and concerns are very important to us.  We want to do the best possible job in leading your child to a lifetime of enjoyment in music and singing. The preferred person to contact is your child’s Columbia Choirs instructor. S/he is most familiar with your child and his/her situation with the choir in rehearsals. The instructor’s name and email address is listed in the Treble Clef Member website (available only to choir members, contact your Choir Liaison or your individual Choir Director for more information). If you would like to meet face to face with an instructor, please arrange to meet following the rehearsal.  Please do not attempt to discuss an issue with  the instructor as s/he is preparing to lead the rehearsal.  Please do not disturb a choir rehearsal in progress.  It is important for your child’s instructor to know about things which may impact your child’s participation level and attitude (illness, family issues, death of a loved one, death of a pet, etc.).  If you have an issue you don’t feel comfortable discussing directly with the instructor, contact our Administrative Assistant by phone at 206-406-3511 or by e-mail at admin@columbiachoirs.com .

We have heard from parents repeatedly that the choir is a source of welcome release and source of friendships for a child who may be going through some turbulent times in school or elsewhere.  The Columbia rehearsal may be the positive end to a horrible day or the much anticipated highlight of the child’s week.

What is the audition like?

It is positive, fun and quick and may be over before the child realizes it. Prospective members can sing a one of the following songs: “America the Beautiful,” “My Country ’tis of Thee” and/or “Happy Birthday.” If your child doesn’t know those songs, another familiar song would be acceptable. We know you and your child are eager to know the results. At the conclusion of the audition, paperwork will be handed out “on the spot” to inform you of your child’s choir level placement. In the event your child doesn’t pass (90%+ do pass!), the staff conducting the audition will thank him/her for coming to sing; telling what s/he can do to prepare for other opportunities to audition for the choir.

What’s required for acceptance?  Is everyone accepted?

Any boy or girl in kindergarten and up is eligible. The group for preschool and kindergarten is a non-auditioned group. For first and second graders and up ability to carry a tune with a pleasant, undamaged, unchanged singing voice is required. No experience is required to enter the beginning levels of the choir. NOTE: If a child wishes to enter the concert levels, music experience and ability to read music is required. A child with private piano study or is in band or orchestra may qualify for higher initial placement. Advance placement is not assured, but is considered on an individual basis. If your child has a consistently husky voice due to yelling or chronic allergies, it will be necessary for you to take him/her to a specialist to have the throat examined for damage. It is not safe for a child to sing with vocal abuse problems. Children with raspy sounding voices will not be admitted due to the above health/safety considerations. If you are in doubt please consult with your child’s vocal music teacher at school or contact our conductor.

Only those who meet the very minimum requirement of an obvious ability to carry a tune with a pleasant, undamaged, unchanged singing voice…who also demonstrate ability to concentrate on a task will be accepted. While we encourage all children to sing, we have chosen to make this a select choir experience so we may move at a more rapid pace.

How much does it cost?  Is financial assistance available?

At approximately $10 per hour, the cost of Columbia Choirs instruction is far less than private music lessons. Financial assistance is available by written application. Eligibility is established by paying the first month’s full tuition. During the first month, application may be made toward seeking financial assistance. Assistance is awarded based upon the greatest need and extenuating circumstances are taken into consideration.

Where do you rehearse?

At your child’s audition you should receive a verbal and/or written notice giving your child’s choir assignment and when rehearsals will begin for you.  If you did not receive that, please contact us by phone at 206-406-3511 or by e-mail at admin@columbiachoirs.com. That assignment will determine the location and the cost of your child’s instruction.  The rehearsal location closest to your home is where you should bring your child.  Your child will be placed into the choir by grade level and gender whenever possible.  New members begin in September (the week after school starts), January (week after the turn of the new year) and March (first week). Columbia Choirs instruction is far less than comparable quality private music lessons. Please see below for our various locations, driving directions and the cost for each group.

Go to the Join Us page for more detailed information.

How often and where do you perform? Other activities?

Melodia, Harmonia and Lyrica present a “Recital Series” (once per quarter) for parents, grandparents and friends, and sing in retirement homes in East King County, North King County and South Snohomish County.  Both types of performances are within regular rehearsal days and times, whenever possible.  Children in Melodia and above levels will sing on our annual YuleFest concert in December and in the “SingFest” All-Region Choir Festival performance in Spring.  As your child advances s/he will perform on stages around the world and with professional orchestras, on radio & television, for sporting events, make CD recordings, etc.

The major performances by Columbia Choirs are done by the top performing levels of the organization: Bel Canto, Cantabile Vocal Ensemble, Con Brio Women’s Choir and Concord Chamber Choir.  Bel Canto has sung (locally) with Seattle Symphony, Orchestra Seattle, Seattle Chamber Singers, Northwest Chamber Orchestra and for conventions, for weddings, in churches, cathedrals, and retirement homes; for the Mariners, Sonics and Seahawks, on King-FM radio and on the Christmas Ship cruises on Lake Washington. Our members have also appeared with the Seattle Opera, have been selected for All-Northwest and All-State Choirs, and have won Washington State solo and vocal ensemble competitions, etc. Internationally, our concert choirs have concertized in Australia, Canada, Czech Republic, Most of Western Europe, England/Wales, Norway, Russia and Sweden.

Does the choir travel? When?

Bel Canto, Cantabile Vocal Ensemble and the adult choirs.  Concert tours are not required, but heartily encouraged because of their educational value.  The Tours are in the Summer in latter June (after school is out) and into mid-July (usually for 10-14 days) and are arranged by professional concert tour agents. The choirs perform an average of every other day; every other day is pure sightseeing.  Parent-chaperones are selected (from among volunteer applicants) to travel with the choir.

See our Awards and Concert Tour History page for more.

What is my commitment/involvement? Basics and volunteering!

As a parent your commitment and follow through on your child’s participation is crucial to your child’s successful experience in Columbia Choirs. Parents and choir directors form a team that has a powerful influence on your child.  We know that singing in Columbia Choirs does wonderful things for children. Given a significant length of membership, singing in this choir inspires an enjoyment of music, singing and the finer things of life that will flow along into a child’s adult years.  We believe children deserve the best in music, instructors, facilities, volunteer support, performance opportunities and performance venues. From your child’s perspective,  we offer the fun of singing in an excellent choir with a skilled, personable director where all the members have been selected by audition AND want to be there!  That is great just by itself. But there’s more.  You have discovered an activity that has the potential to enhance your child’s life in profound ways.

Columbia Choirs is not designed to be a “let’s try this for a couple of weeks and see how it goes” kind of activity. This is the kind of experience that requires a commitment of time (at least 3 months) to have enough understanding of what is offered your child in fun and personal benefit. It takes at least 3 months for your child to acquire the foundation level of skill which adds to the fun of being in the choir.  At first being in the choir may be mostly your idea and your child is just going along with your desire to provide this experience. Your encouragement and active interest in how it’s going will sustain your child’s involvement until the child’s interest matches or exceeds yours and the activity becomes his/hers. Be diligent and positive in motivating your child in subtle ways to stick with it. Your child will do his/her best in the choir as long as it is fun and as long as s/he senses your unwavering support. You may have expectations of the choir based upon a church or school choir experience. You and your child will need some time to get acquainted with the Columbia Choirs style of music and instruction.  Remember, the best time to accurately gauge a child’s feelings/outlook about the choir is on the way home from practices . If you see a pattern of concern, contact your child’s instructor immediately.

Benefits to your child of singing in a choir of Columbia Choirs stature and accomplishment:

  • Short term :  Your child will have fun singing a variety of music, making new friends from throughout the region and seeing smiles & hearing applause in performances.
  • Long term : We offer a sense of accomplishment and personal growth opportunities through singing music from around the world. Singing has benefits you will see in your child short term, but the most profound benefits are long term.  Your child will have experience in having a more positive attitude (focusing on solutions instead of simply identifying the problem), dedication to completing tasks in the most proficient way possible, accepting responsibility for one’s actions, expecting the best from oneself, realistic self-evaluation with a more positive attitude about how to improve, experience in looking for faster ways of learning things, being part of a team to accomplish a goal, self-expression and sensitivity to others, heightened ability to concentrate. All of these and more are what this level of music study and the Columbia Choirs style of instruction brings to your child.

Music is a language and singing is an art.  Singing and musicianship at this international quality level are life skills which require the same kind of commitment your child experienced when learning how to read words.  Your child will take “baby steps” at first.  Please be patient and encourage your child to have patience while developing the skills which will bring even more enjoyment in the choir. With more experience and developed knowledge comes the more enjoyable activities of recording CDs, singing for a variety public and private events, for professional sports teams, and on concert tours domestic and foreign.

Your child will sing many wonderful songs and gain musical knowledge.  We will do our best to see that this commitment is as convenient as possible.  We know the choir is one of many opportunities you make possible for your child.  However, occasionally the outstanding, world-class opportunities we offer may mean some temporary inconveniences and sacrifices. As your child progresses in the choir, we believe you will agree the commitment is worth it because you will see the difference in your child. We will do our best to keep you informed about choir activities in advance to assist you in planning your family’s schedule.

SOME SPECIFICS OF YOUR COMMITMENT:

  • Remain members of the choir for the at least three months to thoroughly evaluate and then make a commitment to remain members the entire choir season (one school year). We need your firm commitment for the entire season to deliver on our promise to train your child at the highest international quality level. Your child will have more fun in the choir the more s/he knows. Consistent repetition (accumulative knowledge) is needed for your child to better enjoy and to completely benefit from the training and experiences we offer. The choir is also a “choral instrument”, a team of singers who depend upon each other’s skills and dedication to reach high standards of singing and performance.
  • Be on time to rehearsals, performances and other choir functions.
  • Be on time for pickup at the end of rehearsal. We finish promptly at 6pm. Please be waiting for your child.
  • Actively communicate with your child about choir. On the way home, please ask how rehearsal went. This is the best time to gauge how your child is feeling about the choir. Sometimes a child will complain on the way to rehearsal (especially on a beautiful day), but on the way home is the most revealing of true feelings.
  • Pay your tuition by the due dates publicized in the newsletter. We depend totally upon your tuition payments to pay the instructor, rent on the rehearsal facility and other expenses of keeping the choir operating.
  • Stay informed by attending rehearsals occasionally. See first hand what your child’s choir experience is like.
  • Attend parent meetings (held only a couple of times per year).
  • Login in to the choir member website, Treble Clef .
  • Pay your Parents Association (CCA) dues. You will receive notice of the dues and how they are used to enhance your child’s experience in the choir. (see below)

Involvement in the Parents Association (CCA):  The parents association, Columbia Choirs Association (CCA), is the framework through which all parental volunteerism is managed.  After your child passes the audition, during the first few weeks of membership there will be a full parent orientation covering the information in the Parent Handbook. The obvious transport to and from rehearsals is necessary. More is needed to enhance each child’s experience. We, the music staff and parents, form an adult organization for the purpose of enhancing the choir experience for the children.  The musical instruction is handled by the music staff, but volunteer committees from among the parents manage everything else…help as chaperones at performances, counselors at retreats, fitting uniforms, planning and managing fundraisers (projects as well as writing grants to foundations and corporations), and providing assistance to the music director in planning, researching and evaluating tours. Requests for help will come out in the Treble Clef newsletter.  We encourage you to respond to these requests for help as immediately as possible.  We adults are all here to enhance the singing experience for the children.  Contact our Head Choir Liaison for more information.

I’d like to refer others to the choir. How should I do that?

We welcome your help in spreading the word about what this fine organization does for children and families. Word of mouth is the best way.

  • Invite prospective members and your music teacher to visit our website “http:// www.columbiachoirs.com/CCI” and/or call the choir office 206-406-3511 for more information.
  • Bring prospective members to your child’s performances or to a rehearsal for “bring a singer-friend to choir day”.
  • Encourage your child’s school music teacher to recommend children to participate in our singing festivals for children; All-Region Children’s Choir and All-Region Youth Choir (in October),  “SingFest” (in March) and “SummerSing” (in June and August).
  • Bring the music teacher one of our CDs to introduce the choir that way.
  • We reward our members for helping attract new members to the choir.  We call the program the “Recruitment Tuition Credit”. This will be explained to you when you join the choir.

What if my child starts to complain about going to choir?

We have found some children will complain on the way to rehearsal (especially on beautiful days). The most important time to accurately gauge your child’s attitude about the choir is on the way home from rehearsal. If your child starts to complain on the way home, please contact his instructor immediately and discuss it.  Sometimes something simple may have happened (being seated away from a friend, another child is being distracting, etc.) which can be easily solved.  Please act immediately on complaints which are made coming homefrom choir.

On complaints made coming to choir, your child may be tired.  A favorite, healthy snack on the way to choir to get the child’s energy level up, may be just the thing needed.  Please avoid greasy foods and milk products because they coat the throat.  Please avoid high sugar content for obvious behavioral reasons (and because it doesn’t provide sustained energy).

Will my child have choir homework?

Seldom at the very beginning levels (Melodia); occasionally at the more advanced levels.   Children in most levels of the choir are given music to take home in a Columbia Choirs music carrying case.  We encourage the children to work a few minutes (10 minutes) each day on their music. There will be music memorization deadlines assigned.  Whatever is assigned will be given well in advance and it won’t be much.  We believe school work must come first.

How do I report an absence?

Faithful attendance and on time arrival at rehearsals is of paramount importance in ensuring your child’s steady learning progress.  The preferred method is to contact your instructor directly by e-mail or call the choir office 206-406-3511; give the date of the absence and the reason.  It is important that you make contact about the absence, even if it is after the fact.  It is important for your child to see and hear how seriously you view his/her membership commitment to the choir by reporting the absence.   It is also important for us to know of any contagious disease to which the other members may have been exposed.

Each child is allowed two absences per semester.  More than two absences and the child and parents must re-interview to continue membership in the choir.

What is the best source of advance information on choir activities?

Advance notice of all choir activities will be announced in the Treble Clef Member website. You must register and create a login and password to the site.  If you have not received the login information, contact your Choir Liaison or your individual Choir Director to request permission. It is important for you to keep your email updated on the site.  If you don’t have e-mail/internet access at home we strongly encourage you to do so. E-mail notices are far faster than any other method of mass communication.  We will be happy to send e-mails to your workplace which can then be printed and brought home.

What should my child eat before rehearsals and performances?

A favorite, healthy snack on the way to choir to get your child’s energy level up after a day at school is a great idea.  Please avoid heavy, greasy foods, liquid milk products (because they coat the throat) and avoid pop (the bubbles cause problems).  Please avoid high sugar content for obvious behavioral reasons (and because it doesn’t provide sustained energy). A piece of fruit with a slice or two of cheese and some fruit juice would be a good snack.  Perhaps some popcorn. On the way home is a different story.

SPECIAL NOTE :  A small bottle of water (with a sport cap) would be ideal for bringing to rehearsal.  The children need to keep their throats moist.  Do not send any beverages with color to rehearsal.  We worry about spillage onto the carpets.  Water only, please.

PERFORMANCES :  Two hours before performances avoid heavy, greasy foods, liquid milk products and avoid pop. Broiled meat, fowl, fish (not fried) and healthy vegetables are just fine. Be sure to feed your singer before performances.  S/he will be needing the energy for the performance.

May parents attend rehearsals?

YES!  We welcome parents into rehearsals. You are our honored guests.  It is important for you to see what training your child is receiving in choir to more fully understand and appreciate what s/he is experiencing. The rehearsal rooms are small, but we’ll squeeze in as many as possible.  We will arrange rehearsal seating so the entry doors are behind the choir to prevent undue distractions. The children need to have the best possible atmosphere conducive to focusing on their singing and learning musical skills.  However, please do not bring younger children into the rehearsal room.

Whom do I contact if I’m confused or have further questions?

When in doubt contact us by phone at 206-406-3511 or by e-mail at admin@columbiachoirs.com to schedule a visit or to audition.  Avoid allowing your confusion to become frustration by getting the information that you need.  We know it is very important that you understand as much as possible so you can be as supportive as possible of your child.  Advance notice of all choir activities will be given in the Treble Clef Member website in which driving directions to events, schedules are included.  If you are still confused, give the office a call. If you have not received the login information to the website, your Choir Liaison, or your individual Choir Director to request permission.