What does “home” mean to you?
Is it a physical place? Being with family and friends?
Founded by Micah Hendler in 2012, the Jerusalem Youth Chorus (JYC) is a choral and dialogue program for Palestinian and Israeli youth comprising 30 singers between the ages of 14 and 19. Its mission is to create a space for young people to be able to discuss their differences while creating music together. Deeply inspired by the context-specific message of “Home,” by Phillip Phillips, Greg Holden and Drew Pearson, the JYC first recorded it in 2014. That video is here: https://youtu.be/xMkq
While sheltering in place, singers and instrumentalists joined the choir from their homes all over the world for “Home” from home, a reimagining of “Home” with its global family, including alumni and beloved collaborators. One of them was Youth in Arts’ `Til Dawn Director, Austin Willacy. You can find that video here.
“We initially thought about making a video of ‘Home’ from home just with the chorus as a cute thing to keep us singing together in this time,” JYC Artistic Director Micah Hendler said. “But once we opened it up to our global community and heard the artists … who answered the call and lent their voices to sing ‘just know you’re not alone, ’cause I’m gonna make this place your home,’ we knew we were on to something extraordinary.”
It is an inspiring piece, and one you’ll want to hear more than once.
“This is a moment where the world is reevaluating what home can mean and what kind of responsibilities we have to one another, locally and globally,” Willacy said.
Willacy first met the chorus last summer as a music educator and featured artist at Jerusalem Singing Camp, a two-week summer program in Jerusalem.
“There is a strong overlap between Micah’s vision for the JYC and mine for `Til Dawn,” said Willacy. “We’re both doing what we can to create resilient communities infused with love that provide a safe place for young singers to discover themselves, and tap into an unshakable sense of self, regardless of what’s happening around them.”
Austin joined the JYC from his home studio in the East Bay. In addition to leading `Til Dawn, he is a renowned performer who travels worldwide as a solo artist and with the pioneering a cappella group, The House Jacks.
Other professionals who participated in the “Home” video include recording artist David Broza; singer, songwriter and activist Achinoam Nini (NOA); composer and vocal activist Melanie DeMore; Joanna Jones and Ari Afsar from the cast of “Hamilton;” Craig Jessop, former director of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir; YouTube stars Malinda, Sam Tsui and Casey Breves; Udi Bar-David, founder of ARTolerance; actor, director and vocal activist Mira Awad; Frank Fredericks, founder of World Faith; Ysaye Barnwell, composer and former singer with Sweet Honey in the Rock; composer Moira Smiley; and Micah’s family members.
“I try to use my voice as a weapon of mass connection,” Melanie said during the video.”We are all one in this world. That’s just the way it is.”
Although a cappella is technically defined as singing without instrumental accompaniment, many a cappella singers use their voices to create instrumental textures when they rehearse and perform to create a multilayered musical experience for themselves and their audiences.
Once everyone in a group learns their part, individually, the next level of work begins, that of weaving these individual parts together into an evolving blended, balanced, dynamic tapestry of sound. Though each member of an a cappella group can learn and practice their parts on their own, the aforementioned weaving has to be done together.
That’s the challenge that’s faced `Til Dawn, Youth in Arts’ award-winning a cappella group. Though the 15-member ensemble typically meets twice a week to practice, they last rehearsed together in person on March 11.
When the shelter in place order resulting from the coronavirus pandemic was issued, the members of `Til Dawn, like everyone else in the Bay Area, have been stranded at home, forcing the cancellation of all of their spring shows, auditions for new members and the cancellation of their annual spring concert.
Suffice it to say, there’s simply no way to do a lot of what the group had been doing.
“There is no way to rehearse that allows us to sing together, real-time, and hear each other,” said longtime Director Austin Willacy. “Variations in wifi access and speed create lags that make it impossible to sing together through Zoom. Truth be told, though we’re a singing group, we spend as much of our time listening as we do singing. Learning to listen to each other while singing, to navigate our individual voice’s proper place as we’re performing, is the most important part of what we do at rehearsal. It’s an ongoing dance of stepping forward and stepping back,” he said.
When they first met online, because of time lags, Willacy was only able to work with one singer at a time – which was very inefficient as it left the other members of the group waiting for their turn. At in-person rehearsals, although individual support is available as needed, the group typically learns new music by voice part; the sopranos all learn the soprano part together, etc.
Recognizing how draining that amount of waiting while glued to a screen could be, Willacy quickly adjusted, shortening rehearsal time by 30 minutes and splitting the group into four songwriting groups based on their self-assessed comfort/experience with songwriting. The check-ins, which are a longstanding attuning process at the beginning of rehearsal, have continued to allow the group to stay connected with each other as much as possible. The music-focused time in `Til Dawn rehearsals is now evenly split between rehearsal and review of existing repertoire and songwriting.
The members of `Til Dawn have been nimble and creative in finding ways to use technology to support their songwriting. One member sang her melody to a friend over the phone (he recorded a track with instruments and sent it back). Another downloaded free beats from a website. Several members play the ukulele, saxophone, guitar and other instruments and have been using those while composing.
Willacy said exploring songwriting has been an unexpected benefit for `Til Dawn members confined to home.
“I’ve been deeply struck by the level of songwriting talent in this group,” he said “I’ve also been inspired by the level of creativity, trust, and willingness to try on something new.”
For the Youth in Arts’ COVID relief fund, `Til Dawn has prepared a special video and song. To make it possible, Willacy laid down a basic piano part to a click track and received an iPhone-recorded guide vocal. After combining them, he sent an MP3 to the group members so they could listen to it in earbuds while recording their respective parts. They recorded themselves (singing mostly on their phones) and sent their audio files back to Willacy, who painstakingly edited them all together, then providing that recording to the song’s lead vocalist, Anna McShea, who was able to perform and record her own vocal in Ableton, a music recording app.
The teens also furnished video of themselves singing along to the track to Youth in Arts Program Director Kelsey Rieger, who is compiling the individual video into a video of the whole group. Watch this wonderful performance here!
Willacy, a renowned performer who travels worldwide as a solo artist and with the pioneering a cappella group, The House Jacks, said he’s been able to stay in the creative flow despite the quarantine. He’s written or co-written at least four songs and mixed and edited several more.
“I’m really lucky to have a studio at home,” he said. “It’s a huge privilege that feels even bigger right now. Being creative helps me stay present.”
It was a wonderful celebration of souls and sound when nearly 50 current and former`Til Dawn members took to the stage for the SING OUT! concert, raising over $5,000 for the group’s scholarship program, through ticket, raffle, food and beverage sales. The goal was to reach $2,020 at the event to celebrate the New Year, and the event far exceeded expectations!
The award-winning teen a cappella group performed at Osher Marin JCC in San Rafael on Dec. 29. More than 150 people attended the event to celebrate the current ensemble as well as `Still Dawn, comprised of former members.
Headliners Stevie Greenwell and Erin Honeywell started off the evening. The two sisters are both `Til Dawn alumni, and Stevie taught last spring in Youth in Arts’ Arts Unite Us program.
Stevie Greenwell performs with the Thrive Choir and the Jazz Mafia Choral Syndicate. She is the founder and director of the Thrive Community Choir and the artistic director of the Diablo Women’s Chorale, and on the faculties of Stanford Jazz Camp and Own the Mic.
Erin Honeywell is an award-winning Bay Area vocalist and songwriter. She plans to release a full album collaboration with her soul band OTIS, as well as more of her original music. She also teaches private voice and chorus at San Domenico school and co-founded Own the Mic, a camp for middle and high school students.
“The SING OUT! offers such a wonderfully unique experience,” shares Development Associate, Morgan Schauffler who organized the event. “You get to marvel at the talent of our current ‘Til Dawn-ers, and hear them harmonize with former group members, many of whom have gone on to become professional musicians. This year’s headliners brought such beautiful honesty and soul to the concert. What a great night!”
The SING OUT! is more than just a scholarship fundraiser – It truly is a family event. Past and present members came from across the country to attend, and most had family members in tow.
Thank you to our food and beverage sponsors: Trader Joe’s San Rafael and Iron Springs Pub & Brewery , as well as our raffle prize donors: Bananas At Large, Salon Ciera, Johnny’s Doughnuts, and State Room Brewery.
Finally, thank you to our wonderful volunteer photographer Garrett Low!
Looking for fun holiday plans this weekend? Youth in Arts’ award-winning teen a cappella group `Til Dawn performs its annual SING OUT!, a fabulous concert fundraiser for the troupe’s scholarship fund. `Til Dawn is the Bay Area’s longest-running, year-round teen a cappella ensemble.
Sunday’s concert features alumni headliners and sisters Stevie Greenwell and Erin Honeywell. Still Dawn, a chorus of more than 40 `Til Dawn alums, will also perform. When the singers take the stage at 7 p.m. at the Osher Marin JCC in San Rafael, it’s a beautiful blend of fabulous voices. The ensemble sings a mix of rock, pop, blues, jazz and contemporary hits.
Renowned director Austin Willacy said the event celebrates the community of more than 100 present and past members. “SING OUT! is an important event because it’s all about celebration and reconnection,” Willacy said. “Our extended musical family is convening at the same time that biological families and chosen families are doing the same.”
When he’s not directing, Willacy performs as a solo artist and with his own a cappella group, The House Jacks.
SING OUT! headliner Greenwell performs with the Thrive Choir and the Jazz Mafia Choral Syndicate. She is the founder and director of the Thrive Community Choir and the artistic director of the Diablo Women’s Chorale, and on the faculties of Stanford Jazz Camp and Own the Mic.
Honeywell is an award-winning Bay Area vocalist and songwriter who performs all over the world. She will soon release a full album collaboration with her soul band OTIS, as well as more of her original music. She also teaches private voice and chorus at San Domenico school and co-founded Own the Mic , a camp for middle and high school students.
“This is a unique and accessible way to experience the inspiration that happens when youth create art in our community – a perfect event during the holiday season,” said Youth in Arts’ Executive Director Kristen Jacobson.
SING OUT! tickets are $25 for youth; $35 for general admission, and $250 for VIP tables (seats 4 and includes champagne) and can be purchased here.
Welcome to the`Til Dawn 2019-20 company.
The new singers attend schools throughout Marin, from Larkspur to Novato and bring a variety of expertise and interests.
“I sing when I wake up and I sing until I go to sleep,” said new member Leah Nemerovski. “I don’t find passion in anything else.”
Current ‘Til Dawn members are already practicing and putting their musical experience to use. Nemerovski plays the trombone, piano, drums, ukelele and enjoys musical theater. She became interested in ‘Til Dawn when she saw them perform at her middle school. She was surprised how easily she connected with other members of the group.
Nemerovski, and Alisa Costello, both 14, attend San Marin High School in Novato. One of the things they enjoy is the closeness of the group.
“It’s like a family,” Costello said.
For the newest members, music runs in the family. Costello’s uncle was an opera singer who performed at Carnegie Hall; Nemerovski is learning how to play the drums from her dad. Will Ferris’s mom is a singer, and Jacquie Kizer has two uncles who are musicians. Emma Orrick’s father is a music producer.
Kizer, 15, goes to Redwood High School. Kizer moved to Marin from New York last year and previously sung in a similar group. Being in the group, she said, provides a safe space and an environment in which to have fun.
“It’s honestly been amazing,” she said.
Orrick, 14, is also at Redwood. and plays the piano and does theater. She was surprised by how quickly the group learns the songs.
“It’s always my highlight of the week,” she said. “It doesn’t feel like a chore.”
Ferris, 15, is a sophomore at Drake High School. He didn’t think he’d get into the group, he said, because he couldn’t figure out what to sing. He chose his winning song –”Fly Me To The Moon” – on the day of the audition.
Ferris said he enjoys performing all of the songs, although some are difficult because they are beyond his tenor range. The songs that are performed are chosen by the ensemble.
“I think it’s great,” he said. “I think it’s really healthy for the group.”
`Til Dawn is an advanced vocal music program that celebrates the value of the arts, encourages positive messages about meaningful social issues and inspires children of all ages. The 15-member ensemble is part of Youth in Arts’ I AM mentorship program and the longest-running, year-round teen a cappella ensemble in the Bay Area. It’s directed by Austin Willacy, who performs as a solo artist and also with his own a cappella group, The House Jacks. While Willacy is on sabbatical this fall, the group has been taught by singer Lilan Kane. a ‘Til Dawn alumnus, and others.
Youth in Arts is thrilled to welcome Megan Bober as our student board member! Megan has been a musician most of her life, she’s played the piano since age 7, but for years she didn’t like to perform in public. “In middle school, I discovered how happy singing made me, and wanted to do it as much as possible, but couldn’t figure out where to pursue my passion along with other kids like me” she said. That is when she discovered ‘Til Dawn, “In 8th grade I went to their spring show,” she recalls. “As soon as I saw them sing, and saw how much fun they had together, I set being a part of ‘Til Dawn as my goal.” Now a Junior at Redwood High School, Megan has been in the group 3 years and says, “’Til Dawn and Youth in Arts have been the most important part of my high school years. I have found a second family amongst kids and adults who are as passionate about music and singing as I am.”
Megan looks forward to working with the board, sharing her unique perspective and conveying, “how important music and art can be to the emotional and intellectual support and growth of people my age.” She has also learned a great deal about Youth in Arts’ advocacy work and, “became passionate about how the organization ensures young people throughout Marin have access to the arts.”
Megan was fortunate enough to have great arts access both at home, through her piano lessons and regular museum visits, and at San Domenico where she attended school from pre-K though 5th grade. “I was given art and music education every day,” she shares. “While at that time I was not pursuing singing, I believe the importance placed on art and music, and the exposure that I was given, laid the foundation for my intense interest in music now. I also think that my early art and music education helped me to be a more creative person in writing and performance.”
We are thankful to have Megan’s passion and creativity on the Youth in Arts board.
Youth in Arts’ award-winning a cappella group, ‘Til Dawn, sang to an enthusiastic crowd on the opening day of the Marin County Fair this summer. The group is the longest running year-round teen ensemble in the Bay Area. It was the last public performance for the group’s outgoing seniors (Kathryn Hasson, Angel Gregorian, Maud Utstein and Will Noyce) as well as ‘Til Dawn member Lara Burgert, who is moving. The ensemble is directed by singer-songwriter Austin Willacy, who performs as a solo artist and also with his own a cappella band, The House Jacks.
Four collaborative works created during Youth in Arts’ residencies this spring took home top ribbons. The mixed media work, inspired by artist Jasper Johns, was created during a 10-week Arts Unite Us program with Youth in Arts Mentor Artist Cathy Bowman.
Student projects from San Ramon Elementary School and Willow Creek Academy won blue ribbons in their age division. Novato High School and Sinaloa Middle School classes each won second place in their age divisions. The San Ramon piece also won the Anne Davis award for best of class (collage) in the 9-12 year-old group.
“Each class created richly layered works that were different from each other,” Bowman said. “It was a privilege to work with such dedicated artists.”
Bowman also won the Charles M. Schulz award for a pig cartoon and a blue ribbon for a second cartoon.
The prize-winning student art will be on display at Youth In Arts as part of “Outside the Lines: Collaborative Art in Special Day Classrooms.” The exhibit opens July 31.
Through the California Department of Education’s Student Support and Academic Enrichment (SSAE) grant that the Marin County Office of Education received, Youth in Arts was in multiple Special Day Classes this spring.
College, rock bands and travel are on the minds of four ‘Til Dawn seniors who are leaving the group this summer.
The four graduating seniors are Kathryn Hasson, Maud Utstein, Will Noyce and Angel Gregorian. Also departing is sophomore Lara Burgert, who is moving with her family to the East Coast – coincidentally to the same town where one of the newest ‘Til Dawn members just came from. ‘Til Dawn is part of Youth in Arts’ I AM mentorship program and the longest-running, year-round teen a cappella ensemble in the Bay Area. It’s directed by Austin Willacy, who performs as a solo artist and also with his own a cappella group, The House Jacks.
“It’s been a really good experience with people I have come to love so much,” Hasson said. “It’s taught me obviously so much about music but also so much about collaboration as an artist. Art is about connection, and that is what Youth in Arts is doing.”
Noyce, a senior at San Domenico School, is headed to Santa Monica College to study film production and work for a production company. Gregorian, who attends the Marin School of the Arts, is attending Loyola University New Orleans.
One of the things she appreciated about ‘Til Dawn, she said, was a chance to deeply discuss complex events and consider multiple perspectives.
“It was always ok to be curious and talk about world issues,” she said.
She and other ‘Til Dawn members stressed how important access to the arts is for all learners.
“For a lot of kids, it can be the thing that helps them get through the hard parts of life,’’ Utstein said.
Noyce, who was part of ‘TIl Dawn for four years, agreed.
“What ‘Til Dawn fosters is the idea that you can have your own path,” Noyce said. “Often times, artists don’t do as well in the school system. I think ‘Till Dawn shows there are other paths.”
‘Til Dawn, Youth in Arts’ award-wining a cappella group, dazzled their audience with a wide range of songs at its annual concert at the Carol Franc Buck Hall of the Arts at San Domenico School in San Anselmo. The group is the longest, year-round teen a cappella ensemble in the Bay Area.
Each of the members, mostly from Marin County high schools, performed at least one solo. The repertoire included Big Band music, Motown hits, modern pop tunes and more. ‘Til Dawn is part of Youth in Arts’ Intensive Arts Mentorship program (I AM).
“One of the amazing things about a cappella music is it’s universally relatable to human beings because we all have voices; because it’s all coming from a human voice, any number of genres that people might not otherwise listen to are accessible,” said ‘Til Dawn Director Austin Willacy.
Willacy has been the director for 22 years and also records and performs with his own a cappella band, The House Jacks, and as a solo artist.
“Programs like these are vital for creating a space for young artists to thrive,” said Youth in Arts’ Executive Director Miko Lee. “These talented young singers practiced for months and their hard work paid off. The audience was thrilled.”
If you missed the concert, you’re in luck. ‘Til Dawn performs at the Marin County Fair in San Rafael on July 3 from 3:30 to 4 p.m.
And check out some videos here:
Thank you to San Domenico School for the generous gift of the hall for the concert and to the Marin Community Foundation.
By YIA Staff
“There was a wide range of emotions and ages I had to play,” Hasson said, noting her character ages more than 10 years. “The play is all about slowing down and living your daily life and paying attention to it, even when things seem boring.”
The 18-year-old senior said it was fun to play a different kind of character. Often typecast as the mother, this time she played the love interest.
Hassan, who serves as the student representative on the Youth in Arts board, said her three years with ‘Til Dawn has been excellent training. The Marin Academy senior has applied to 16 colleges and universities and plans to pursue a career in musical theater and acting.
“Without a creative outlet, it’s so hard to focus in any other aspect of life,” she said. “Being able to use the arts to express myself makes me more able to focus academically.”
Hassan also praised ‘Til Dawn director Austin Wilacy, whom she called “an incredible teacher.” Austin is a professional singer and songwriter who performs and records as a solo artist and with Tommy Boy/Warner Bros. The House Jacks.
“I can’t even put into words how having him as a mentor has changed me and changed my life,” she said.Older Entries »