About 70 Manassas-area children are joining their voices in song as members of a new choral group that began rehearsing last month.
The Greater Manassas Children’s Choir, an offshoot of the Manassas Chorale, is divided by age into two singing groups, each with a director. Becky Verner leads about 50 children in grades 5 through 8, and Susan Dommer is head of a smaller group of children in grades 2 through 4.
Verner and Dommer have deep roots in the Manassas music community. Verner, who is director of music for both the Manassas Chorale and Manassas Baptist Church, said she has about four decades of experience working with children. Dommer teaches chorus at Stonewall Middle School and is choir director at Manassas Church of the Brethren, where the children’s choir rehearses.
The Manassas Chorale, composed of adults and high school students, has a five-year plan that includes the goal of establishing a children’s choir, Verner said. Organizers began laying the groundwork for the program more than a year ago, she said.
“A lot of people are very excited about this,” Verner said. “Parents have said, ‘There are all kinds of opportunities for children who enjoy sports, but there haven’t been the same kind of opportunities for children who love to sing.’ ”
In May, organizers began working in earnest, spreading the word that the children’s choir would start in the fall. Although most of the children are from Manassas, the choir draws from communities such as Bristow and Centreville as well.
Before joining the choir, the children were required to attend a “voice check” session.
“It’s like an audition, but that sounds a whole lot less scary for the child,” Verner said, adding that no children were turned away from the choir.
In addition to the directors, the choir has two paid piano accompanists. Costs are covered in part by a tuition charge of $225 for nine months, and the choir is looking for sponsors to help fund scholarships for children who need financial assistance, Dommer said.
“We don’t want any child not to sing because of money, and we have had several take advantage of that,” Dommer said.
The choir is limited to children with “unchanged voices,” Verner said.
“We’re hoping in future years to expand it up and down age-wise, to include a number of different ages and groups,” she said. “If we see that children are going to age out of the group, we will decide if we’re going to have a group for older children the next year, and how we’re going to structure that down the road.”
The groups are preparing for their first concert, in December. The first rehearsals included teaching the kids simple sight-reading, because most of them do not know how to read music, Dommer said.
When a friend told Diana Lantz, of Manassas, that a community choir would be forming, she thought it might be a good fit for her daughters, who are 10 and 7.
“A lot of kids are really into sports, and my kids aren’t, really,” said Lantz. “They’re both kind of introverted and quiet and like to read a lot.”
Lantz’s daughters, Giselle and Nassine Rahimi, also like to sing, so she thought the choir might be a good experience. Her daughters love the choir, she said, “which is saying something, because they are tired after school.”
“This is a perfect activity for them’” she added.
Barnes is a freelance writer.