Composer to head Seraphic Fire's Miami Choral Project
Shawn Crouch, a composer, conductor and educator, will bring a love of music to needy children as part of an innovative Miami Choral Project that he hopes to expand across the nation.
BY JESSICA KIRCHNER
Special to The Miami Herald
Shawn Crouch wants to bring the magic of music to needy youngsters as the newly appointed foundation director of Seraphic Fire's Miami Choral Project.
He knows its power: Crouch has been playing, experimenting and studying music since he was 5. His seven brothers and sisters play instruments, too.
''I have made it a mission that young people know the importance and power of music,'' said Crouch, who has been a composer, conductor and educator at New York's Hunter College Campus School.
The newly started Miami Choral Project is funded by a $684,500 grant from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. It is a tuition-free program that creates a ''little league-type'' network of choral ensembles for children in low-income areas in Miami-Dade.
''This program is the first of its kind in America and one of the most important music education initiatives ever undertaken,'' Crouch said.
And Patrick Dupre Quigley, Seraphic Fire's artistic director, said Crouch was best suited to lead the effort. ''When we conceived this project, I knew that the only person I'd want to have at the helm would be Shawn Crouch,'' Quigley said.
``I have worked closely with Shawn on numerous projects for almost a decade now and I know firsthand his dedication to both his students and to classical music in general.''
The project, scheduled to launch in August 2010, is still in its preliminary stages.
Crouch, however, knows exactly what he wants to achieve.
''We want to better low-income communities through participation in choral singing,'' Crouch said. ``Children who sing together are taught important life skills: how to listen to one another, how to work as a team and how to strive for their personal best, adding their voice for the benefit of the choir as a whole.
``We will nurture these life skills through music and help foster them outside of rehearsal into the child's community.''
The grant funding the choral project is part of the Knights Arts Challenge, a five-year, $40 million initiative to transform South Florida arts.
''The arts have the power to bring a diverse community together, like few other things,'' said Dennis Scholl, Knight Foundation Miami interim program director. ``This project, under Shawn Crouch's leadership, will unite young Miami-Dade residents and build a love for the arts and friendships across communities.''
The choral project is starting in Miami, but Crouch wants to expand it across the United States.
''It would get kids involved with singing across the country,'' Crouch said. ``Choirs would come together for regional choral festivals. What a wonderful idea, bettering the world through music.''
This isn't the first choral project that Crouch has taken on.
Crouch increased Hunter's concert choir from 20 to 80 singers and started a chamber choir and a men's and women's ensemble.
He said he focused on helping students ``hear the pitches inside their heads and sing them.''
''We have toured throughout Europe and are now recognized as one of the finest high school choirs in New York City,'' said Crouch, who holds degrees from the New England Conservatory and the Yale School of Music.
He plans on moving to Miami in late August and is already anticipating the rewards of starting the choral project.
''As an educator, I love watching students light up when they learn about and perform music,'' he said.