The Ravinia Associates, a group of young professionals dedicated to supporting Ravinia Festival and its REACH*TEACH*PLAY education programs, held their winter board meeting at the Ravinia Lawndale Family Music School in Douglas Park on Chicago’s Westside. “It wasn’t your typical meeting. Every member was able to experience first-hand what the Family Music School is all about” remarked Associate member Dave Gaspar. The Family Music School is part of an ongoing partnership between the Ravinia Festival and the Lawndale community. The Partnership provides access to the arts and opportunities for cultural enrichment, including free lessons in piano, guitar, violin and choral performance, to this underserved west-side community. The Ravinia Lawndale Community Choir performs regularly around Chicago, including a live performance on WFMT at Ravinia, singing for the Cubs tree lighting ceremony, and the Chicago Park District Citizen Award Banquet.
After observing guitar and piano group lessons, the Associates were treated to a performance of Hezekiah Walker’s I Need You to Survive by the choir. Following the choir’s performance, choral director Shanka Falls turned to the Associates and said, “now it’s your turn!” After a brief explanation of the gospel music tradition, Ms. Falls taught the song to the Associates, who became the newest members of the Ravinia Lawndale Community Choir. Nervousness was tossed aside as they joined the choir on stage. By the end, both seasoned choir members and Associates harmonized and even sang solos for a final rousing performance.
When asked about the experience, voice student Bobbie McLauren said “The interaction with the Associates was great. It gave them a chance to see what we are doing and see the quality of the program”. Imani Shamsuddin, who sings in the choir along with her mother, sister and grandparents added, “We had so much fun. We always have fun in class, but this was great!” Gaspar concluded, “This is one of many great education programs that Ravinia provides and I would encourage everyone to see and experience them for themselves.”