The San Fernando Valley Youth Choir, a Canoga Park-based organization that has guided young people in developing musical skills since 1992, has hired Kayla Paige Williams as their first managing director.
In previous decades, the duties were performed by a dedicated board member and chorister parent, Sue Saper. Now the torch has been passed, and Kayla Paige Williams, who took over last month, is just the woman to ignite things for the foreseeable future.
“I feel I’m uniquely qualified for this position because not only do I have experience running my own business, but being a musician myself, in a choir since I was seven, I can bring that experience to the job,” Williams says. “I’m also a graduate of Westminster Choir College, so you could say I love choral singing!”
A classically trained mezzo-soprano who studied in Florence, Italy, Williams has performed for the US Army, the American Cancer Society, Los Angeles City Hall, and appeared at venues such as Second City Los Angeles and Upstairs at Vitello’s.
As an example of the range Williams would bring to the chorus as a performer, she wowed audiences as a soloist in a musical tribute to Rodgers and Hammerstein, commanded the stage as an opera singer in Bizet’s Carmen and Mozart’s Goats fan Tutte,” the record vocals for Sony Thailand’s #1 hip-hop group Thaitanium and sang lead alongside experimental rock group Unpoppable.
Outreach, community building, and youth work are also integral to Williams’ journey, as she has worked with the Los Angeles Outreach Program, participated in Ann Baltz’s Los Angeles OperaWorks, and developed her own early childhood music classes . It is therefore fitting that she finds herself in an environment that aims to use choral education, community outreach and choral music performance to help young people grow personally and artistically.
The 30-year-old institution began as the Angeles Chorale Children’s Chorus. Today, as the San Fernando Valley Youth Choir, the organization offers its youth the opportunity to participate in one of three different choirs grouped by age: Kinder Choir (ages 3 to 1St class), Concert Choir (2n.d grade to 12th grade) and Advanced Ensemble (by invitation).
All students receive training in aural training, vocal technique, theory and history. Tuition ranges from $100 to $175 per semester, depending on individuals. Payments can be made in installments, and financial scholarships are available for those who qualify.
“We welcome anyone who has a passion for singing,” says Williams. “We are a non-audition choir and no one is turned away for lack of musical talent or ability to pay. About 60% of our current families receive tuition assistance.’
The Choir’s winter and spring concerts are open to the public. The choirs rehearse on Sundays at First United Methodist Church, which is located at 22700 Sherman Way in Canoga Park. Williams hopes next year the choir will perform more frequently around town, in which case additional rehearsals and performance times may be added. Most recently they played at the Madrid Theater. It was one of several successful post-pandemic exits after several difficult years.
“Restoring membership in people [has been a challenge]Williams notes. “Covid has been a big challenge for musicians, but we are finding our way back. We follow the CDC’s current guidelines because the health of our members is of the utmost importance to us. The choir has been around for 30 years! We celebrate this and look forward to the future of the chorus. It was so exciting to go see live performances again!”
A new artistic director was also just appointed. “Her vision aligns with ours,” says Williams. “She has a passion for all kinds of world music. I believe it is important for our children to experience a wide range of music. Choristers have tasted all kinds of musical genres. From pop to classical to jazz.”
Williams aims for the membership to be just as diverse. “Our goal as an organization is to bring music education to everyone,” she says. “I want the choir to look like our community. The San Fernando Valley is rich in culture and my goal is to attract people from all walks of life.”
Diversity manifests itself in many ways for Williams. With a board and staff made up mostly of working parents, many hats are worn. “My biggest accomplishment right now is the balancing act that I do every day,” Williams says.
“I am proud to be raising two amazing children – twelve-year-old JT and ten-month-old Joel – with my supportive and talented husband, Jim Titus. I run my own business, teach voice lessons, perform with the Los Angeles Opera Chorus in their upcoming season, and work with choirs. All these things fill my cup in many ways, the creative in me, the assistant in me, the manager in me. I feel grateful that I can do anything. I take pride in the work I do.”
For the San Fernando Valley Youth Choir, Williams is currently focusing on reaching out to local schools and music teachers to raise awareness. Fall registration is live on their website. The first rehearsal is on September 11. Meanwhile, Chorus has partnered with Muse-ique to offer Summer Jam on Sunday, a new program combining different art forms. Chorus’ future may be similar. Looking to the long term, Williams’ vision is expansive.
“We would love to give our choristers the experiences of a lifetime. We would also like to raise money to fund other programs. I see a musical theater program in our future.
Learn more at valleyyouthchorus.org and facebook.com/ValleyYouthChorus
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