YSC includes 500 participants from age 3 to adult in 15 divisions, guided by 50 talented part-time artistic staff. Our programs are accessible to all levels of experience and ability, and include early childhood, special needs, recreational and auditioned choral programs. Youth Singers is for children and adults who want to do more than just stand up straight and sing. It’s a triple threat – a choreographed choral experience with theatrical elements. O
It’s a full program – classes begin in September and end in June, with many opportunities for extra rehearsals. A typical year for us will see several divisions participate in two main stage shows at the Southern Alberta Jubilee Auditorium, as well as up to 100 community performances throughout the city. As an exciting bonus our program also gives young people once-in-a-lifetime opportunities to showcase their talents across Canada, and around the world. Next year our SENIOR HI and older divisions will be going to South Africa!
Our performers are mentored and continuously challenged to learn and grow artistically. The mentorship component of our program has resulted in a number of working choreographers, musical directors and arts administrators, many of whom continue to benefit our organisation as artistic staff – arranging the music, creating the choreography and writing the scripts which form the basis of Youth Singer’s yearly main stage shows.
Thirty years ago at Mount Royal Conservatory, Shirley Penner was asked to design a junior high choir for 26 students. Penner merged classically-based singing with dancing and acting, and the class soon took on a life of its own.
Within a few years, this class grew to 80 students; however, the Conservatory was only able to accommodate one class. “I had to make a decision. I stayed, working on fund development at the college, but I took the Youth Singers out into the community,” says Shirley Penner, CEO of Youth Singers of Calgary.
After relocating a few times, the fledgling company found a home in Victoria Park Community Centre where it remained for 12 years, growing into one of the largest not-for-profit choral organisations in the country. Having outgrown the community centre, and after countless volunteer hours as well as donations from their supporters, in 2009 Youth Singers renovated a warehouse and relocated to its new Performing Arts Youth Centre in the southeast.
The 18,000-square-foot space houses four studios, a sound room, set and costume storage, and a priceless library of music titles. The space is simple, functional and solid, much like the organisation itself.
“The important thing is what happens inside the building,” says Penner.
“It’s the young people! Building self-esteem and confidence and giving them all the opportunities to lead and grow.”
Performers have fun while earning high school credits and learning important life skills: time management, organisation and teamwork. They learn to win with grace, work hard and make lifelong friends who share a love of music. And they’ve learned from the best.
Shirley Penner was recently inducted into The Alberta Order of Excellence for her contribution and impact on the arts and the community. She has had an impact on more than 3000 performers in the three decades Youth Singers has operated.
Our administrative offices and all rehearsals are located at
1371 Hastings Cres SE,
Calgary, AB, T2G 4C8
A major reason for the program’s success is the dynamic team of individuals behind the scenes. “We’ve been extremely fortunate to have attracted some of the finest music educators, choreographers and musicians to the program; without question our Artistic Team is responsible for helping make Youth Singers the fine and respected organization it has become,” says Shirley Penner. "The faculty is chosen not only on the basis of their qualifications, but also their ability to relate to the specific age group with which they work."