Beginnings and Format
Since the fall of 2006, Chris Jones has been an integral part of the core of professional singers for the non-profit chorus Singing A-Z. (http://www.singingaz.org) of Washington, DC, under the direction of Betty Buchanan.
The chorus uses full class participatory singing and drama to bring fun and uplifting music, art, and lessons about nature and environmental preservation to underfunded elementary schools in the District of Columbia. The program provides several sessions to each elementary school throughout the school year, during which a select group of singers from Singing A-Z provides several private classroom sessions with each school to teach the kids the songs - sometimes one-on-one - that will be performed on the final concert. The group will then leave a CD recording of the songs and a folder containing important historical information about each song for the class teacher so that the class can continue to practice each song for the big concert.
In this way, when the entire singing group returns to perform the full concert for grades 1-4, almost half the children will already know the songs, and are therefore able to confidently participate in the concert, which they do with unbridled enthusiasm. Included in this process are fun lessons about geography, history, and rhythm.
Chris Jones is one of several leaders of these class sessions, visiting the schools and working with the kids on a regular basis to teach them about the joy of music making. As one of the class session leaders, it is also his implicit job to make the sure the children understand that music is not sport, nor is it recess. It is just as important as any other academic class and can, in fact, allow a student to succeed further in their more traditional academic classes. Explaining the politics to a seven year old about why their school has no music program is a very difficult part of the job. Sadly, the students often do not even realize that they are missing it.
Each season, the non-profit chorus offers its patrons and donors a concert in February and a gala in April. In addition, the chorus provides a full concert for the residents of St. Mary's Court, a nursing home in the Foggy Bottom neighborhood of the District of Columbia - closing out the season by bringing music and joy not only to the children of Washington, DC, but also to the city's senior citizens.
Chris Jones is the only professional chorus member who is involved in all three areas of community service provided by this invaluable non-profit organization. This is his fifth year with the group.
Building Relationships and Affecting Change
After looking at the photos and video footage taken at elementary school assemblies, it is clear to see that the children not only love to sing and play instruments (displaying the continued need for music and art programs in DC Schools), but also that they cherish the relationships they have been building with the singers during the school year.
Chris Jones frequently recounts stories of children who remember the lyrics to songs, who remember his name in future sessions, and often, because of his height, think of him more as a jungle gym, and will try to climb all over him as he spends time with them during the sessions.
There is no doubt that the lives and futures of these wonderful children, who are not able to be exposed to the various music styles presented by Chris and his colleagues, may experience a life-change due to the dedication and hard work of this group of professional and passionate amateur singers.
Be sure to visit the school session photos and school assembly video footage pages to see Chris Jones in action at two of the elementary schools that are taking part in this program.