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A song and a spark

Young Singers of Orange County, which started as student's senior project, gives kids a chance to build vocal chops and confidence.

December 31, 2013|By Rhea Mahbubani

Youths from Yorba Linda, Santa Ana and elsewhere, who have faced cuts in their schools' arts courses or want to build upon their music education, have found their way to YSOC. Together, they've performed at elderly care centers, hospitals and food drives, pursuing their interests while learning that money isn't a prerequisite to contributing to society.

YSOC members were at Costa Mesa City Hall's Snoopy House on Dec. 23 to perform Christmas songs and sell hot chocolate and cider. The group was easy to notice and not only because each person wore a matching green shirt. The sense of camaraderie was palpable as some stood with arms linked, others shared a laugh and the younger girls sat on the laps of or stared up adoringly at their older counterparts.

Kendall Whitney-Vazquez, 14, and her sisters Hadley, 10, and Rilyn, 5, and brother, Curran, 12 — the choral group's only boy — are recent additions. The siblings are home-schooled, so YSOC has been a vital source of friendship and growth.

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"They make it a lot of fun," Kendall said. "It's such a wonderful atmosphere to be in because they're really supportive."

The overall experience is further enhanced by the encouragement of members to offer input about the songs and even the accompanying hand motions, Hadley remarked.

"It's important to help people and help kids when they don't have homes or food," Rilyn chimed in, agreeing with her sisters about the importance of generosity and getting firsthand exposure to all sorts of situations. "At the retirement center, [some people] said, 'Can you come again?' or 'Can you stay with me?' We went [to the residents] and hugged everybody."

Having grown in scope, YSOC is also adding a master class program. Professional musicians from around Orange County will be invited to talk to the singers so they can learn about different genres and see that a hobby today could one day become a full-time career. Toward this end, it has also teamed up with a capella groups from Yale and Brown universities, USC and UCLA.

According to Dominique Stewart, president of SoundCheck, the singing group has earned a following on campus. It was a desire to reach out to the community that brought it face-to-face with YSOC.

"Music has changed all of our lives in some fashion or another," Stewart said. "We wanted to make sure it can do the same for kids like them as well."

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