The Coastal Sound Youth Choir placed first in the National Music Festival earlier this month and although it’s a huge accomplishment don’t expect these young singers to gloat about it. It’s just not their style.
“We don’t really put an emphasis on competition at all,” said 19-year-old choir member Kaitlyn Salonga, of Maple Ridge. “We’re in it for the experience.”
“One of our main focuses is to really connect with our audience on an emotional level,” added fellow choir member Lacey Polack, 18, who’s also from Maple Ridge. “We want to make the audience feel how we feel about a song, whether it’s happy, sad, about love or humour.”
The Coastal Sound Youth Choir is part of the Coastal Sound Music Academy, a non-profit society based in Coquitlam. The academy, which began 22 years ago, offers choral music programs to people of all ages and promotes kindness and connection through vocal performing. They also provide singing workshops, vocal coaching, childhood music education and music theory training.
The academy’s youth choir consists of 65 members who’re aged 14 to 22 and although it was the group’s first year entering the festival, they placed first regardless and beat out all other community youth choirs from across Canada.
The competition required choirs to send in unedited recordings that were submitted to their respective provincial music festivals and those provincial winners had their recordings forwarded on to The National Music Festival, an event sponsored by the Federation of Canadian Music Festivals.
A panel of choral experts then judged the entries to determine the best youth choir in the country.
The winning entry sent in by Coastal Sound featured performances of Rheinberger’s Abendlied and a piece dedicated to the Mothers of Brazil called Salve Regina by Lars Jansson and arranged by Gunnar Eriksson.
The choir was awarded their top prize on Aug. 13 in Antigonish, NS at the festival’s grand award concert. Although the group couldn’t be there, Annette Coffin director of one of the youth choirs at Coastal Sound was on hand to accept the award.
“I’m super proud of all the work they’ve done this year. We had a year with a bunch of new singers and the group just came together and worked really hard,” choir director Carrie Tennant said. “The focus of the academy is to build relationships and give these young people the experience of being artists at whatever level they’re at.”
“We really don’t try to emphasize competition as part of Coastal Sound.”
In fact, Tennant was adamant about keeping the recording a secret from her students because she didn’t want to make the kids nervous.
“I really don’t like to emphasize competition at all. I didn’t want to make a big deal out of it,” Tennant said. “I basically recorded it and didn’t tell them why. I said it was for educational purposes. But, we had a great time and laughed a lot.”
Although the program aims to help young people perfect singing and performing, Coastal Sound is also a home away from home for many students.
“It’s like my second family. Every Thursday, I have 64 other people there for me,” Polack said. “It’s a real privilege to be directed by Carrie.”
“She lets so much of the creativity come from us too, it’s not just her,” Salonga added. “We all love it there. It’s so cool. Just the amount of creativity. We love that and live for that.”
Tennant echos those sentiments, “I’m more proud of the fact these kids have found a place they feel safe to be the artists they want to be and feel they have a second family to come to.”
“That makes me more proud that winning a competition.”
From left to right: Lacey Polack, Kaitlyn Salonga, Mirelle Wild and Lee Clark are members of the Coastal Sound Youth Choir.