Building Community: Voices Without Borders

WRITER | NICOLETTE CHAMBERY
PHOTOS | VOICES WITHOUT BORDERS

Bringing International Culture to Traverse City through Boundary-Breaking Music

In 2009, a group of individuals and soon-to-be board members convened to found Voices Without Borders, an organization that promotes and supports choral music and a number of other artistic pursuits. Shortly after VWB’s inception, the directors began planning the organization’s first choral festival, only to realize that Northern Michigan did not have a youth choir that could represent the region. In response, the Little Traverse Youth Choir, a group of 13- to 19-year-olds with a shared passion for singing and cultural development, was formed in February 2010 under the VWB umbrella.

Since then, more than 1,000 students from around the world have participated in over 100 performances. The choir took its first international tour to Canada in 2013, performing at the parliament building in Ottawa and in a number of other regions throughout the country.

Kim Cerrudo took over directorship of both VWB and the Little Traverse Youth Choir — or LTYC — in January 2018. She is a former vice-chair of VWB’s Board of Directors and a former science teacher, with additional experience as a curriculum writer for the State of Michigan. She also has a passion for youth, music, and the arts.

Cerrudo shared the following insight on the benefits of participating in LTYC, “In the world today, people tend to be afraid of anything that might be different. What we’re doing helps people see how much joy and connection can be found in investing in those who are different from us.”

The culmination of LTYC’s efforts is an annual international festival called the Children of the World in Harmony International Choir and Dance Festival. Cerrudo elaborates on the experience of the festival and says, “When participants come to the festival, they stay with host families, which is an international experience for all involved. It’s a really special way to bring the world to Michigan. As LTYC continues to grow, the goal is to send those involved out into the world. We are hopeful that our international travel will continue to expand.”

This year, LTYC has been invited to sing at the Dublin International Choral Festival and at the American Celebration of Music, to be held in Glasgow and Edinburgh, Scotland. This honor is a testament to the choir’s skill and its impact on the international choir community.

The VWB board decided early on that it didn’t want cost to be a factor for LTYC members and developed a program for donors to help alleviate their expenses. While the choir itself is tuition free, members are responsible for raising $1,200 toward the $3,800 per person cost of this year’s tour. Not every member can generate adequate funding for the many expenses related to a trip of this kind — airfare, local transportation, housing, meals — which is where the larger community can be of great assistance, and the VWB is actively campaigning to supplement choir members’ efforts.

This pioneering organization and its notable leadership exist to not only bring children together through song but through the universal truth that, cross-culturally, we are more alike than different. This meaningful choir and its exposure to the world at large is developing young hearts and minds to embrace diversity, displacing fear of what is unknown to them and replacing it with a spirit of gratitude for all that can yet be explored and, inevitably, appreciated.

Voices Without Borders 438 E. Lake Street, Petoskey MI 49770 l (480) 236-2196 l VWBChoir.com