"We always emphasize that this is where Justin Bieber performed, or some other contemporary performer," Kay DeVries says with a laugh. "It's an exciting adventure for them."
She is talking about the 11th annual Mountain View Whisman School District Choral Fest, scheduled to take place May 7, from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the Shoreline Amphitheatre. Free and open to the public, the event is presented by the Shoreline Amphitheatre, the Mountain View Education Foundation, the Los Altos-Mountain View PTA Council and the Community School of Music and Arts.
DeVries, program manager of Choral Fest, says the event is not held to raise funds. It is simply meant to bring "visibility to music in schools and show that it can transform young people's lives."
That goal is reflected in the theme of this year's Choral Fest, "With Music the Celebration Never Ends." Music, DeVries says, is truly a universal language — one that captures and transmits joy "regardless of who we are or where we live in the world."
DeVries has been working as a music instructor with the CSMA since 1998 — teaching Huff students about notes, scales and chords since 1998 through the CSMA-MVWSD collaborative music and art program.
Choral groups from each of the Mountain View Whisman School District's nine schools will perform at the festival, DeVries says. The children will sing two group numbers and then each chorus will sing an individual song. The choral performances begin at 6:30 p.m., but people are encouraged to come early and have a picnic while they enjoy the opening acts — the Graham Dance Teams and the Crittenden and Graham jazz bands.
Since its inaugural year, Choral Fest has been held on the main stage at the Shoreline Amphitheatre. Holding the event at such a large venue puts a spotlight on the value of public school music programs, DeVries says. Seeing the children up on the big stage, singing their hearts out, resonates with everyone.
"The hope is," DeVries says, "that when it comes time for another parcel tax or when the education foundation is out asking for donations, that people will be willing to give money to the school district to make sure that programs like this continue."
Holding the event at Shoreline, where some of the biggest acts of the past 30 years have performed is a real confidence boost for the kids, DeVries says.
"I think they do get inspired," she says. "It's really neat to be a part of that."